SC asks Allahabad HC to take up Abdullah Azam Khan’s plea for suspension of conviction

The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Allahabad High Court to take up on April 10 the plea filed by senior Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Azam Khan’s son Abdullah Azam Khan seeking suspension of his conviction in a 15-year-old case for staging a dharna on a state highway.

Abdullah Azam Khan’s petition against the March 17 order of the high court, which had asked the state to respond to the appeal in three weeks but had not stayed the session court’s order, came up for hearing before a bench of Justices K M Joseph and B V Nagarathna.

The bench observed that the high court can hear the application for suspension of conviction.

It said the petitioner be present before the high court on April 10 and requested the high court to take up the matter on that date.

While hearing the plea on March 29, the apex court had asked senior advocate Vivek Tankha and advocate Sumeer Sodhi to serve the copy of the petition to the standing counsel of Uttar Pradesh government and posted the matter for hearing today.

On March 29, Tankha had argued that Khan was a juvenile at the time of offence and hence his conviction be stayed. He said the high court had erred in not staying the session court’s order.

In his plea filed in the apex court through Sodhi, Khan said,

“The high court failed to appreciate the fact that if the application is not decided expeditiously then the same would be rendered infructuous and the petitioner would suffer irreparable harm which no court of competent jurisdiction would be able to undo even if the application is decided in favour of the petitioner.”

Giving the details of the case, he said the trial court had on February 13 convicted him of offences including under section 353 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and sentenced him to two years of simple imprisonment with a fine of Rs 2,000.

He said subsequent to the order of the trial court, the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly secretariat had on February 15 notified that Suar constituency of Rampur district of Uttar Pradesh which he represented as MLA has become vacant with effect from February 13.

Khan said he appealed the verdict of the trial court before additional sessions judge Rampur and also filed an application for stay of conviction but the court dismissed the plea and application on February 28.

He said the same day he approached the high court against the order of the sessions court but the high court on March 17 granted three weeks to the state government to respond to his plea.

“In a nutshell, the case of the SLP petitioner before this court is that the impugned order passed by the high court is bad in law as the said order is passed without taking into account the urgent requirement of the issues involved in the application preferred by the petitioner,” the plea said.

Khan said non-adjudication of his application in a time bound manner will render it infructuous and, therefore, it is imperative that the high court considers the application as soon as possible, given the potential consequences of the conviction and sentence, which may include re-election to his assembly seat in the assembly.

He said his conviction is legally unsustainable as he was a minor when the offence was committed.

“There are judicial orders to the effect that the date of birth of the petitioner is January 1, 1993, hence the petitioner was merely 15 years old at the time of commission of the offence in question. Accordingly, the entire trial proceedings are flawed,” he said.

The FIR against Khan, Abdullah Azam and seven others was lodged in 2008.

Khan had sat on dharna on a state highway on January 29, 2008 as their cavalcade was stopped by police for checking in the wake of an attack on a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) camp in Rampur in Uttar Pradesh on December 31, 2007.

The FIR was lodged at the Chhajlait police station.

While Khan and Azam were sentenced to two years in jail under section 353 (criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) and other provisions of the IPC, the seven other accused were exonerated.

An MLA or MP is automatically disqualified if convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for two years or more in a criminal case.

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