2 May 2023 1:05 PM GMT
The Supreme Court on Tuesday adjourned to May 12, the hearing in a challenge against the Kerala High Court suspending the conviction of parliamentarian Mohammed Faizal. A bench of Justices KM Joseph and BV Nagarathna was hearing a plea by the union territory of Lakshadweep against a January 25 order of a single-judge bench of the Kerala High Court suspending the conviction and sentence...
The Supreme Court on Tuesday adjourned to May 12, the hearing in a challenge against the Kerala High Court suspending the conviction of parliamentarian Mohammed Faizal.
A bench of Justices KM Joseph and BV Nagarathna was hearing a plea by the union territory of Lakshadweep against a January 25 order of a single-judge bench of the Kerala High Court suspending the conviction and sentence of former Nationalist Congress Party legislator Mohammed Faizal in an attempt to murder case.
The matter could not be taken up today, since the division bench was hearing the batch of petitions challenging the premature release of the 11 life convicts in the Bilkis Bano case. Before rising, senior advocate Ritin Rai requested the bench to adjourn the special leave petition against the suspension of Faizal’s conviction to Tuesday, May 9.
“We have too many matters on that day,” Justice Joseph said.
“The week after that is a miscellaneous week,” the senior counsel pointed out. Normally, the week before the Supreme Court closes for vacation and the week after it reopens are declared miscellaneous weeks. This means that the court would hear only miscellaneous matters on all days of the week, instead of the usual Mondays and Fridays, and no regular hearing matter would be taken up. Rai added, “Since the week before the summer vacation is a miscellaneous week, we would like to take our chances with next week. Please keep it on May 9.”
The bench accepted the senior counsel’s request to list the matter next week. “Keep it on May 12,” Justice Joseph directed.
The member of parliament and NCP party whip was convicted along with three others, for attempting to murder Mohammed Salih, son-in-law of an Indian National Congress leader and former union minister under the United Progressive Alliance government, during the 2009 Lok Sabha polls. A sessions court in Kavaratti had sentenced the four accused to 10 years in jail. Subsequently, on the strength of the conviction, Faizal was also disqualified from the Lok Sabha by its secretariat. However, in January, a single-judge bench of the Kerala High Court suspended Faizal's conviction. In the backdrop of the election commission organising a bye-poll to fill the vacancy, Justice Bechu Kurian Thomas expressed concerns about the associated expenditures and observed that the newly elected candidate would be able to function only for a period less than fifteen months. Noting that no dangerous weapons were found to have been used by Faizal and that the wound certificates did not indicate any serious injuries, Justice Thomas proceeded to suspend the conviction of the former legislator. He wrote:
“The consequence of not suspending the conviction of the second accused is drastic not only for the second petitioner but even for the nation. The cumbersome process of elections will have to be started, and the exorbitant cost of a parliamentary election will have to be borne by the nation and indirectly by the people of this country. The enormity of administrative exercises required for the conduct of an election will inevitably lead to various developmental activities in the union territory of Lakshadweep coming to a halt for a few weeks at least. Despite all these exercises and financial burdens, the maximum period for which the elected candidate can function will be only a period less than fifteen months.”
It is also important to note that as a result of this verdict, Faizal’s disqualification as a member of parliament was also stayed, as per the information relayed by the election commission in January. Eventually, last month, his membership of the Lok Sabha was restored by a notification by the secretariat, which read:
"In view of the order of the High Court of Kerala, the disqualification of Shri Mohammed Faizal in terms of the provisions of Article 102(1)(c) of the Constitution of India read with Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, has ceased to operate subject to further judicial pronouncements.”
Following this, another plea was moved in the top court challenging the restoration of the legislator’s Lok Sabha membership.
U.T. Administration of Lakshadweep v. Mohammed Faizal & Ors. | Special Leave Petition (Criminal) No. 1644 of 2023