The Supreme Court on Tuesday set aside the Kerala High Court’s stay on the conviction of NCP leader and Lakshadweep MP Mohammed Faizal in an attempt-to-murder case but protected him from immediate disqualification by keeping in abeyance the implementation of its order for six weeks.
A bench of Justices B.V. Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan passed the order after noting that the high court had not considered in “proper perspective” Faizal’s plea for a stay on his conviction and had merely passed the order on the ground that it would otherwise result in enormous expenses for the exchequer to conduct an election for the Lakshadweep Lok Sabha seat.
The bench passed the directions on an appeal filed by the Lakshadweep administration challenging the stay, which was supported by victim Padanath Salih, the son-in-law of former Union minister P.M. Sayeed.
After Tuesday’s order, Faizal will continue to be an MP for six weeks until the Kerala High Court decides afresh on his plea to stay the conviction imposed by the sessions court of Kavaratti on January 11 this year.
“The high court has considered only one aspect of the matter — that the first respondent was a member of Parliament and any conviction would cause a fresh election to be conducted for Lakshadweep, which would result in enormous expenses. The said aspect could not have been the only aspect considered,” Justice Nagarathna said.
“The high court should have considered the application in proper perspective and in view of settled decisions of this court in accordance with law. We thus disagree with the decision and set aside the impugned order and remand the matter for fresh consideration…”.
The bench, however, acceded to the request of senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Faizal, that the disqualification should not come into force until the high court decided the matter despite opposition from additional solicitor-general K.M. Natraj, appearing for the administration, and senior advocate Menaka Guruswamy, representing Salih.
Justice Nagarathna said the bench was currently dealing only with the application relating to the vacating of stay on the conviction and not on the merits of the allegations, which were for the appellate court to decide.
“However, we find that from the date of this order till the stay of his conviction by the high court, the respondent (Faizal) has continued to remain a Member of Parliament and has been discharging his duties in connection with the same.
“Since we are remanding for reconsideration at this stage, it would not be proper to create a vacuum. We request the high court to dispose of the application within six weeks,” the bench said.
On January 11, the sessions court had sentenced Faizal and three others to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment for attempting to kill Salih in 2009. The conviction was subsequently stayed by the Kerala High Court.
In terms of Section 8 of the Representation of People Act, 1951, Faizal stood disqualified from his Parliament membership and a notification to this effect was issued by the Lok Sabha Secretariat.
Although the high court stayed his conviction, which technically restored his membership, the Lok Sabha Secretariat did not restore it. Faizal then filed an application seeking the restoration of his membership.
However, during the pendency of his application in the Supreme Court, the Lok Sabha Secretariat on March 25 issued a notification reinstating him as an MP.