1 May 2023 1:51 PM GMT
Whether a legislator's suspension due to conviction in a criminal case should be based on the moral turpitude involved in the offence?. The Supreme Court raised this query while hearing Samajwadi Party leader Mohammed Abdullah Azam Khan's plea to stay the conviction in a case, which resulted in his disqualification as a member of the UP legislative assembly. A bench comprising Justices...
Whether a legislator's suspension due to conviction in a criminal case should be based on the moral turpitude involved in the offence?. The Supreme Court raised this query while hearing Samajwadi Party leader Mohammed Abdullah Azam Khan's plea to stay the conviction in a case, which resulted in his disqualification as a member of the UP legislative assembly. A bench comprising Justices Ajay Rastogi and Bela Trivedi was hearing the matter.
"Somebody is convicted for two years, and he is disqualified. But can't we test the morality of the individual who has been convicted as to whether the kind of conviction in any manner make him unfit to be a public representative", Justice Ajay Rastogi orally asked.
Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj, appearing for the State of Uttar Pradesh, replied that such an examination by the Court is not warranted, as the Representation of Peoples Act provides for automatic disqualification of the legislator on conviction and sentence to a term of imprisonment for a period of two years or more.
"We are only on one point. We want to know one thing. If you are able to justify that the person who has been convicted for a nature of crime which makes him unfit to be a public representative, then you get the benefit. Because morality is there", Justice Rastogi told the ASG. The judge repeated that the query was whether the Court should see if the crime makes the person unfit to be a representative.
While asking the Uttar Pradesh government to file a counter affidavit in response to the plea, the bench clarified that the results of bye-elections scheduled to be held in Suar assembly constituency on May 10 consequent to Khan's disqualification will be subject to the result of the petition. Khan's lawyers Senior Advocates Vivek Thankha and Kapil Sibal requested the bench to make such a clarification when the bench said it is adjourning the matter to July.
Khan's lawyers argued that he was sentenced for sitting in a dharna with his father when he was only 15 years old.
"I am 15 years old and I with my father. Father gets angry and gets down on the road, and I sit with him. I'm convicted for two years for sitting with him for a dharna", Thankha submitted. The senior counsel submitted that going by the recent judgment of the Supreme Court in another case of Khan, he would be a juvenile when the alleged offence took place (2008). The bench however said that it will not examine the aspect of juvenilitiy.
Sibal referred to the order passed by the Supreme Court which stayed the conviction of Hardik Patel in a criminal case, which ultimately enabled him to contest the Gujarat assembly elections in 2022.
In February this year, Khan was convicted for an offence during a dharna staged along with his father fifteen years ago. It was alleged they had blocked traffic after their vehicle was stopped by the police for checking. The trial court sentenced him to two years imprisonment for the offence under Section 353 IPC (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharging his duty).
He has approached the Supreme Court after the Allahabad High Court on April 14 dismissed his plea to stay the conviction. "It is now the need of the hour to have purity in politics. Representatives of people should be man of clear antecedent", the HC bench of Justice Rajiv Gupta observed.
Case Title: Mohammad Abdullah Azam Khan v. State of UP
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