SC to Hear on Aug 22 Lakshadweep’s Plea Against Suspension of Sentence of MP Mohammed Faizal

 The Supreme Court on Monday fixed August 22 for the final hearing of Lakshadweep administration’s plea against the suspension of conviction and sentence of Lok Sabha MP Mohammed Faizal in an attempt to murder case by the Kerala High Court.

A bench of Justices BV Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan initially said from the records of the high court it appears that proper consideration was not given “to all relevant facts” and greater focus was on the conduct of by-election, a consequence of his disqualification.

Senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi, appearing for Faizal, said there are various apex court judgements in similar cases, and among the parameters set for suspension of sentence was election.

“We have gone through the entire records. It appears proper consideration was not given to all the relevant factors. Let it be re-examined by the high court,” the bench told Singhvi.

Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj, appearing for the UT administration, said he has no objection if the matter is remanded back to the high court. Senior advocate Maneka Guruswamy, appearing for complainant Padanath Mohammed Salih, who was attacked by Faizal in 2009, said she too has no objection if the matter is sent back to HC for proper consideration.

Singhvi, however, said it will be appropriate if the petition is heard by the apex court for final adjudication.

The bench then listed the matter for final hearing on August 22.

On January 11, 2023, Faizal and three others were sentenced to 10 years rigorous imprisonment and fined Rs 1 lakh each by a sessions court in Kavaratti in Kerala for attempting to kill Mohammed Salih, son-in-law of the late union minister P M Sayeed, during the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.

Faizal had moved the Kerala High Court against the order and the HC suspended his conviction and sentence on January 25.

In its order, the high court said it was suspending the conviction and sentence of the NCP leader pending disposal of his appeal against the trial court order. It said not doing so will result in fresh elections for the seat vacated by him which will impose a financial burden on the government and the public.

The Lakshadweep administration moved the Supreme Court against the high court’s order, and on January 30, the top court agreed to hear its petition.

In its petition, the UT administration said the high court had erred in suspending Faizal’s conviction and sentence.

On March 29, the top court had disposed of Faizal’s separate plea against his disqualification as a Member of Parliament in view of the Lok Sabha secretariat’s notification restoring his membership following the high court order.

Faizal was disqualified from the membership of the Lok Sabha with effect from January 11, the date of his conviction by the sessions court in Kavaratti, according to a notification issued by the Lok Sabha Secretariat on January 13.

In its petition in the apex court, filed through advocate Akshay Amritanshu, the union territory administration has said,”

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In the present case, the respondent no.1 (Faizal) failed to make out any exceptional circumstance for his conviction to be suspended and the reason assigned by the high court for suspension of conviction and sentence is alien to the exercise of jurisdiction under section 389 (of the) CrPC.”

It claimed the implication of the high court’s interim order is that “any and every disqualification of an elected representative would automatically have to be suspended, as every conviction leading to disqualification and consequently bye-election, would call for (i) financial burden to the state exchequer and (ii) limited/lesser tenure of the elected candidate”.

The UT administration said the high court failed to appreciate the drastic effect of suspension of conviction on the rule of law, and asserted public interest and the principle of decriminalisation and purity of politics should far outweigh any interest of Faizal.

“The high court had misdirected itself while observing that holding of elections would lead to various developmental activities in Lakshadweep coming to a halt for a few weeks. It is submitted that holding of elections is an essential feature of democracy,” the petition said.

It said an elected member of Parliament, who stands convicted of attempted murder along with being an accused in three other cases, is a “serious reflection” of the character of the accused.

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