Disqualification of MPs: Stay on conviction can’t be norm, says Supreme Court

A two-judge bench of Justices KM Joseph and BV Nagarathna said that there cannot be a separate norm for a lawmaker on suspension of conviction and sentence in a criminal case.

Supreme Court
Supreme Court (File Image)

Hours after the Lok Sabha Secretariat restored the membership of Lakshadweep’s Member of Parliament (MP) Mohammad Faizal citing the Kerala High Court’s stay on his conviction in a criminal case, the Supreme Court decided to examine the correctness of the HC order.

NCP leader Faizal was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment by a trial court on January 11 this year in a 2009 attempt to murder case involving Mohammad Salih, the son-in-law of former Union minister and late Congress leader PM Sayeed. The Kerala High Court on January 25 stayed the conviction on grounds that it will force another election and burden the exchequer.

A two-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justices KM Joseph and BV Nagarathna said that there cannot be a separate norm for a lawmaker on suspension of conviction and sentence in a criminal case and another for ordinary citizens.

“When there is a prima facie opinion based on materials before the court that it is a case of acquittal only then suspension of conviction and sentence can be done. There cannot be a separate norm for Member of Parliament and Member of Legislative Assembly for suspension of conviction and sentences,” the bench remarked, as quoted by PTI.

The observations by the court came after senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who appeared for Faizal, said what weighed in the mind of the Kerala High Court while suspending his conviction and sentence is that he is an elected representative and if his conviction and sentence is not stayed, it will lead to his disqualification and subsequently polls need to be held.

To this, the bench replied that it is only in exceptional circumstances when the conviction needs to be stayed and it cannot be a norm.

There were roughly 16 injuries including on the brain of the victim, Justice Joseph told Singhvi.

“There is also a statement that the victim was airlifted and put in the ICU of the hospital, where he had to undergo treatment for two weeks and the high court says it is a case of simple injury. Principally, it is the act and intention and not the result, which counts,” the bench said.

Meanwhile, Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj, appearing for the Union Territory, said that there were three points of concern, first that the seat will fall vacant and polls would cost the exchequer.

“Secondly suspension of conviction and sentence should be in rarest of the cases and thirdly the court has to see the criminal antecedents of the convict,” he said.

The bench asked Singhvi whether the high court should go into all these aspects, and directed Nataraj to furnish the English translation of prosecution witnesses.

The matter will be next heard on April 21. The Supreme Court hearing on the matter assumes significance now as Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has also been disqualified as an MP following a conviction by a Surat court in a defamation case. The trial court suspended the sentence for 30 days and allowed him to file an appeal at a sessions court.

(With inputs from PTI)

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First published on: 30-03-2023 at 10:23 IST