7 Nov 2022 6:13 AM GMT
A Division Bench of the Supreme Court of India on Monday dismissed the challenge against a decision of the Allahabad High Court to disqualify Rampur MLA Mohd. Abdullah Azam Khan for not having attained the age of 25 years on the date of the election as prescribed in Article 173(b) of the Constitution. In 2019, the Allahabad High Court struck a major blow to Khan's electoral aspirations...
A Division Bench of the Supreme Court of India on Monday dismissed the challenge against a decision of the Allahabad High Court to disqualify Rampur MLA Mohd. Abdullah Azam Khan for not having attained the age of 25 years on the date of the election as prescribed in Article 173(b) of the Constitution. In 2019, the Allahabad High Court struck a major blow to Khan's electoral aspirations when the petitioner, one Nawab Kazam Ali Khan, moved the Court claiming that the young politician from the Samajwadi Party had falsely represented himself to be older for the purpose of contesting the assembly elections. The Bench, comprising Justices Ajay Rastogi and B.V. Nagarathna, dismissed the appeal, with Justice B.V. Nagarathna delivering a separate but concurring judgement.
The appellant was represented by Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, who argued at great length about the failure of the High Court to take into account "basic principles of the law of evidence". The crux of his contention was that the appellant had satisfactorily established the factum of his birth by placing reliance on hospital records and corroborating such records with primary and documentary evidence in terms of Sections 60 and 61 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. On the other hand, the petitioner, Sibal submitted, had not successfully discharged his burden of rejecting or displacing this evidence because he had relied only on the date provided in a school register, unsupported by either primary or documentary evidence.
Per contra, Advocate Aadil Singh Boparai, appearing on behalf of the petitioner (respondent in this appeal), contended that he had successfully discharged the initial burden placed on him, and hence, the onus has shifted onto the opposite party. He took the Court through transcripts from the cross-examination of key witnesses and strenuously argued that even if the evidence adduced by the appellant to repel the allegation against Khan was considered relevant under Section 35, such evidence did not inspire confidence and would not justify setting aside the order of the High Court.
The contentions made on behalf of the disqualified legislator did not find favour with the Bench. In the course of the hearings, Justice Nagarathna, while expressing her reservations, had said, "Abdullah Azam Khan was born only once. He cannot have two dates of birth. We will have to record a finding as to the correct date of birth." Ultimately, the Bench ruled against the appellant and upheld his disqualification.
The appellant, Mohd. Abdullah Azam Khan is the son of senior Samajwadi Party leader and Member of Parliament (Rampur) Azam Khan. Khan had contested the 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly Elections from Swar constituency in Rampur on a Samajwadi Party ticket and won. However, in December 2019, a single-Judge Bench of the Allahabad High Court invalidated his membership of the State Legislature on the ground that he was below 25 years of age at the time of filing the nomination, on the date of scrutiny of the nomination paper, and on the date of declaration of results. Holding that Khan was not qualified to be chosen to fill the seat in the legislature of the State in terms of Article 173(b) of the Constitution, Justice Surya Prakash Kesarwani allowed the election petition.
Khan, along with his father, Azam Khan, and his mother, Tazeen Fatma, were also arrested in February 2020 on several charges, including cheating, for allegedly fabricating his birth certificate. In December of the same year, Fatma obtained bail. However, it was not until January 2022, that Khan was released from Sitapur Jail in Uttar Pradesh. His father was released later in May after 27 months of incarceration.
Mohd. Abdullah Azam Khan v. Nawab Kazim Ali Khan [CA No. 104/2020]
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