The Supreme Court on Friday set aside an Allahabad High Court order directing the sealing of a university that has Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan as a trustee as a condition for granting him bail, frowning on the “new trend” of high courts imposing “strange conditions”.
The high court had granted bail to Khan in a land-grab case on May 10 on the condition that the Uttar Pradesh government would seal Mohammed Ali Jauhar University in Rampur district by July-end. After his release, Khan moved the Supreme Court against the order.
A Supreme Court bench of Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and J.B. Pardiwala said on Friday: “What is this condition? There is a new trend of high courts imposing strange conditions. This is yet another matter where this court finds the high court has referred to matters which are unrelated to consideration of the prayer for bail in respect of the concerned crime.
“We feel the high court ought to have dealt with only those aspects which were related to bail and not venture into unrelated issues, much less to impose conditions much beyond what is required to ensure presence of accused during investigation and trial.
“We have no hesitation in setting aside that part of the order while retaining the conditions that are relevant to the bail order…. These conditions shall operate during the bail period and the appellant must strictly adhere to those conditions without exception. We also place on record that the authorities acting upon the observations made in view of that order shall be removed.”
The bench clarified that though it was setting aside the high court order, the authorities concerned can act independently within their statutory powers to take necessary steps for securing the university premises.
“However, it (the order) will not stop the authorities to initiate proceedings against the appellant on the basis of available records…. The district magistrate and other officers shall take immediate action for de-sealing the property,” the Supreme Court said.
The Uttar Pradesh government accuses Khan of illegally taking over land to set up the university. According to the government, the land on which the university stands is “enemy property” vested with the state. Enemy property refers to assets left behind by those who have settled in countries with which India has been at war at some point.
While granting Khan bail, Allahabad High Court had imposed the condition that the university would be sealed and also asked the authorities to take over the land and hand it over to the army for defence purposes.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Khan, assailed the order and complained that the authorities had already initiated steps for sealing the property on the basis of the high court directive despite being informed that a special leave petition had been filed in the Supreme Court.
Justice Khanwilkar, heading the bench, told additional solicitor-general S.V. Raju, representing the Uttar Pradesh government: “You’ll have to restore status quo, Mr ASG. We are disturbed about this trend.”
Raju replied: “It’s not his (Khan’s) personal property.”
Justice Khanwilkar said the court had no objection if the authorities concerned carried out their duties according to rules, but the high court cannot impose any such condition for grant of bail.
“The authorities must do their work, we have no objections, but this cannot be a condition for a bail order. They take action under any other Act, we have no problem,” the Supreme Court said.
Sibal said some of the other conditions imposed on Khan were also very harsh, like he should be present before the court at every hearing. The bench suggested that Khan can present himself during a few hearings and thereafter seek exemption.