The Allahabad High Court has issued a notice to the Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Azam Khan in a case concerning Uttar Pradesh Government’s challenge to a Rampur Court’s decision to acquit Azam Khan in the ‘2019 Hate Speech Case’ which led to his disqualification as an MLA. On August 3, Justice Raj Beer Singh summoned the records of the trial court and the appellate court. The court then listed the case for the next hearing on September 27, 2023.
“This appeal has been preferred against the order dated 24.05.2023, passed by the learned A.S.J. (M.P./M.L.A), Court No.2 Rampur in Criminal Appeal No.55 of 2022, whereby, the appeal filed by the respondent has been allowed and the judgment of conviction passed by the Trial Court has been set aside and he has been acquitted of the charges under Section 153A, 505(1)(B) IPC and section 125 of the Representation of the People Act. Issue notice to the respondent returnable at an early date,” the court said.
On May 24, the Additional District and Sessions Judge Amitveer Singh set aside Rampur’s Special MP/MLA Court’s order dated October 22, 2022, which convicted and sentenced Azam Khan to three years imprisonment.
The Disqualified SP MLA was convicted u/s 153A (promoting enmity between two groups), 505 (statement conducing to public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and u/s 125 of the Representation of People Act. Azam Khan was convicted for his provocative statements against the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath and then-District Magistrate of Rampur Aunjaneya K Singh during the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections.
Azam Khan’s conviction in the 2019 Hate Speech Case led to his disqualification from his Uttar Pradesh Assembly seat in 2022. Subsequent to Azam Khan’s disqualification, a by-poll was conducted which was won by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Akash Saxena.
Notably, it was reported that the UP Police’s records show that over 83 cases have been registered against Azam Khan and 41 cases against his son, Abdullah Azam Khan since BJP came to power in 2017.
Furthermore, the former legislator continues to remain disqualified under the Representation of People Act due to his convictions in the 2008 Chhajlet Case and another hate speech case concerning the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections.
On July 15, a Rampur Court convicted Azam Khan to two years imprisonment in a case concerning hate speech during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Azam Khan’s troubles continue as this is the third time the SP leader has been convicted in the past six months.
The Joint Director (Prosecution) Shiv Prakash Pandey said, “On Saturday, the Rampur court held Azam Khan guilty in the hate speech case. Later, in the day court sentenced him (Azam Khan) to two years imprisonment and also imposed a fine on him.” He further said informed that Azam Khan has moved a bail application in the case, however, the court has yet to decide on his application.
The trial court convicted Azam Khan u/s 505(1)(b) (statements conducing to public mischief) and 171G (False statement in connection with an election) of the IPC. The court also convicted the senior SP leader u/s 125 of the Representation of People Act.
The case against Azam Khan was registered at the Shahjad Nagar Police Station, Rampur, on April 8, 2019, for his inflammatory speech against the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and the District Magistrate who was also the Returning Officer, during a public meeting in the Milak Vidhan Sabha area.
2008 Chhajlet Case
On February 13, Azam Khan was convicted in the 2008 Chhajlet case, along with his son and SP leader Abdullah Azam Khan, for blocking traffic and staging a protest on a highway after their vehicle was stopped for checking by the police in Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh.
The incident occurred in the wake of a terror attack on a CRPF camp in the neighbouring Rampur District, in which seven jawans and a rickshaw puller were killed on December 31, 2007. The FIR against the SP leaders was lodged at the Chhajlait police station in 2008.
The SP leader’s vehicle was stopped for having black-tinted windows. Azam Khan’s son, Abdullah Azam Khan, was driving the car and failed to produce the vehicle’s documents when asked to do so by the police. Azam Khan, seated at the back, stepped out of the vehicle and escalated the altercation with the police. Other SP members reached the spot, further escalating the confrontation and blocking the road in protest.
The Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) Smita Goswami sentenced the SP leader Azam Khan and his son, Abdullah Azam Khan, to two years imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs 3000/- on each of them. The father-son duo later filed a bail application which was granted to them by the Court. The duo was released after submitting the required surety.
The Special Court convicted the father-son duo under Indian Penal Code’s section 341 (wrongful restraint) and section 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge from his duty) and other provisions. The SP leaders have now been granted bail after the verdict. The Special Court acquitted seven other accused in this case citing lack of evidence, including SP MLA from Amroha, Mehboob Ali, and former MLAs Haqi Ikram Qureshi and Naim-ul-Hasan.
It is pertinent to note that Azam Khan’s son, Abdullah Azam Khan, was an MLA from the Suar constituency when he was convicted by the Special Court. Thereafter, Abdullah Azam Khan’s seat was declared vacant with effect from February 13, in light of the Representation of People Act, 1950.