A significant relief for Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and now former Member of Parliament (MP) from Lakshadweep, PP Mohammeed Faizal, and Kerala High Court today suspended his conviction and 10-year sentence in an attempt to murder case till disposal of the appeal [Sayed Mohammed Noorul Ameer & Ors. Vs Union Territory of Lakshadweep].
According to the prosecution, “Faizal and 36 other accused, along with some other identifiable persons, armed with deadly weapons, committed the offence of rioting and voluntarily caused hurt on Salih after wrongfully confining him and his friend Mohammed Kassim at a place at Androth Island. Three accused, including Faizal, chased Salih when he tried to flee the spot, broke open the room of a house where he had taken shelter and brutally manhandled him with the aid of dangerous weapons, including sword-stick, chopper, iron rod, rafters, sticks etc.”
According to Bar and Bench, on January 11, the Kavaratti Sessions Court had convicted four, including Faizal, for attempting to murder Padanath Salih, the son-in-law of former Union Minister and Indian National Congress leader, PM Sayeed, in relation to a political controversy during the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. It has convicted them of committing offences punishable under several provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including Section 307 (murder attempt). They were all sentenced under each of the offences alleged, but since the sentences were to run concurrently, they would effectively have to undergo ten years of rigorous imprisonment. They were attacked when they reached the spot for intervening in a political issue during the 2009 Lok Sabha polls. Of the remaining 35, four persons – including the disqualified MP and his brother were convicted and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, while the rest were acquitted.
The next day on January 12, the four convicts moved an appeal before the Kerala High Court. They also filed applications to suspend their conviction and sentence and release them on bail during the pendency of their appeal. In their request, they stated that the evidence against the appellants consisted of the depositions of three prosecution witnesses who were workers of the Congress Party. In contrast, the appellants belonged to the NCP. Therefore, it was argued that the evidence is partisan without corroboration.
The objection petitions came before the single Judge Bechu Kurian Thomas for hearing. The Lakshadweep Police filed an objection for both petitions through the Special Prosecutor for the Union Territory of Lakshadweep S Manu. Faizal is involved in two other serious crimes and is presently facing trial in one of those cases. Their release would send a wrong message to the society, the island administration had said. There were 37 accused in the case. Two of them had died, and the trial had abated against them.
It was also argued that Supreme Court has held that the prohibition under Section 8(3) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 entails disqualification to a person convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for more than two years.
In it, they said, “The intention of such intervention of the Hon’ble Supreme Court is to ensure that lawbreakers shall not continue as law makers. Therefore, utmost circumspection is required when convicted politicians including an elected representative are seeking suspension of conviction also. In this regard it may kindly be noted that the Hon’ble Supreme Court as well as different Hon’ble High Courts have rejected the prayers of several elected representatives to suspend their conviction for enabling them to contest elections,” the objection stated.
“The offence committed by Faizal and his brother, who was a teacher in a Government school, had shocked the society of the island archipelago where few crimes are reported”, it was argued.
Justice Thomas delivered the verdict and opined that the case relating to Faizal fell in the rare and exceptional circumstances category and that the ramifications of not suspending his conviction were enormous.
He said, “The consequence of not suspending the second petitioner’s (Faizal’s) conviction is drastic for him and the nation. A cumbersome process of election will have to be started and its exorbitant cost will have to be borne by the nation and indirectly by the people of this country”. He also said that the enormity of the administrative exercises required for the conduct of the election would inevitably lead to various developmental activities in Lakshadweep coming to a halt for a few weeks at least.
It was further stated that the societal interest in averting an expensive election when the elected candidate could only continue for a limited period if a fresh election is conducted could be addressed. The court extended the same relief to the other three convicts in the case, including Faizal’s brother. The exact order of the high court is not yet available.
The High Court also suspended the sentence of the other three petitioners but not their conviction.
Manu, bar and bench say, confirmed the high court order on the joint plea moved by the convicts against their conviction and ten-year jail term by a Sessions Court in Lakshadweep. The Union Territory (UT) of Lakshadweep had opposed the suspension of the sentence of the convicts, saying that granting them the relief would “shake the people’s faith in the judicial process”.
Md. Faizal has also moved the apex court challenging the Election Commission (EC) announcement to hold bye-elections in his constituency after disqualification. The matter was mentioned last Friday before Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud for early listing. The CJI has agreed to hear the case on January 27.