The Supreme Court on Wednesday remarked that there cannot be a separate rule for a lawmaker and common people on the issue related to the suspension of conviction and sentence in a criminal case while hearing a matter pertaining to Lakshadweep MP Mohammed Faizal plea.
A bench of justices KM Joseph and BV Nagarathna made this remark while it was hearing petitions related to the case against Lakshadweep MP Mohammed Faizal. “If prima facie opinion based on materials before the court reflects that it is a case of acquittal then suspension of conviction can be argued,” the court said.
“There cannot be a different rule for a Member of Parliament and Member of Legislative Assembly for suspension of conviction and sentences,” the court said.
The court remark came after it noted the Kerala High Court while suspending his conviction and sentence observed that Faizal was an elected representative and that if his conviction has not stayed, the seat will be vacant and polls would cost the exchequer.
The court has asked the UT to furnish the deposition of all the relevant witnesses and listed the matter in April.
Meanwhile, the court has apprised of the fact that Faizal Lok Sabha’s membership has been restored.
The court was hearing the Union Territory of Lakshadweep’s plea challenging the interim impugned order dated January 25, 2023, passed by the High Court of Kerala at Ernakulam.
Earlier, Kerala High Court suspended the conviction and sentence of Lakshadweep MP and Nationalist Congress leader (NCP) leader PP Mohammed Faizal and three others in a case of an attempt to murder.
Kerala HC passed the order on a plea of Faizal and others challenging a trial court’s order at Lakshadweep in an attempt to murder case. Faizal filed the application seeking to suspend the 10-year imprisonment.
Earlier, the Kavaratti Sessions Court had convicted four persons, including Faizal.
Thereafter, The UT Administration of Lakshadweep moved the Supreme Court challenging the Kerala High Court order, which suspended the conviction of Lakshadweep MP Faizal in the attempt to murder case.
In the plea, the Union Territory of Lakshadweep challenged the interim impugned order dated January 25, 2023, passed by the High Court of Kerala at Ernakulam.
Through the impugned interim order, the High Court has suspended the conviction and sentence imposed on Mohammed Faizal by the Sessions Court, Kavarthi, Union Territory of Lakshadweep, till the disposal of the criminal appeal.
The High Court has also suspended the sentence of imprisonment of other accused till disposal of the appeal.
Earlier, the Kavaratti Sessions Court had convicted four persons, including Faizal for committing offences punishable under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections143, 147, 148, 307, 324, 342, 448, 427, 506 read with 149 relating to offences relating to rioting, attempt to murder, violence, kidnapping.
They were all sentenced to undergo 10 years of rigorous imprisonment and were also directed to pay a fine of Rs 1 lakh each for allegedly attempting to murder Padanath Salih, the son-in-law of former Union Minister PM Sayeed in relation to a political controversy during the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.
The UT Administration of Lakshadweep, in the plea, said that the consequence of Faizal’s conviction by the Ld. Sessions Court, Kavarthi on January 11, 2023, was that by operation of Article 102(1)(e) of the Constitution read with Section 8(3) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, the respondent, who was an elected Member of Parliament from Lakshadweep Constituency, stood disqualified by the operation of law from the date of conviction and the Lok Sabha Constituency of Lakshadweep stood vacated.
The Lok Sabha Secretariat had issued a Notification dated January 13, 2023, to the same effect in terms of Article 102(1)(e) of the Constitution of India read with Section 8, of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, i.e. by virtue of conviction of the Faizal, stood disqualified as a member of Lok Sabha representing Lakshadweep Parliamentary Constituency of the Union Territory of Lakshadweep.
Pursuant to this disqualification, the Election Commission of India issued a press note dated January 18, 2023, deciding to hold bye-elections to fill the vacancy in the Parliamentary Constituency of Lakshadweep on February 27, 2023.
However, by the impugned interim order dated January 25, 2023, the High Court has suspended the conviction and sentence of the respondent for offences including Section 307 IPC where the punishment of 10 years rigorous imprisonment was imposed and the sentence of the accused was suspended.
The administration said that the impugned interim order has suspended the conviction of the respondent, only on the basis of consequences of an election, which are totally irrelevant to the entire issue.
“Section 389 CrPC for the purposes of suspension of conviction does not envisage the ground that was referred by the High Court while passing the impugned interim order,” the UT said.
It added that the principles of democracy, purity of elections and decriminalisation of politics have all been accepted and acknowledged by the High Court but ignored by the High Court while passing the interim impugned order.
The UT stated in its plea that the High Court has ignored the object and spirit of Section 8(3) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and Article 102(1)(e) of the Constitution. That in the entire impugned interim order, there is no iota of discussion on the suspension of sentence, especially when the respondent No. 1 to 4 (accused persons) have been convicted under Section 307 IPC”.