Thiruvananthapuram, January 30, BPNS
The Kerala High Court order that suspended the conviction of Nationalist Congress Party leader Mohammed Faizal, who was Lakshadweep MP, has been challenged at the Supreme Court. It was the Lakshadweep administration that has approached the apex court raising concerns that the high court order.
The petition by the Lakshadweep administration said that it might result in suspension of every conviction and sentence of elected politicians citing the reason to avoid the financial burden of bye-elections.
The Lakshadweep administration also contended that the high court order ignored the principles of democracy, purity of elections and need for decriminalization of politics. It also ignored the spirit of the Representation of People Act, alleged them.
The bench led by the Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud is expected to hear the matter on February 6.
Meanwhile, the Election Commission of India, in a statement on Monday, said that considering the HC order it has decided to withhold the bye election and to defer the issuance of bye-election notification.
Earlier, in its petition, the Lakshadweep administration said that a conviction for an attempt to murder is a serious reflection on the character of the elected MP. And thus the benefit of any presumption of innocence cannot be extended to him after his conviction.
It was on January 25 that Justice Bechu Kurian Thomas suspended the conviction and sentence of imprisonment imposed upon Faizal until the disposal of the appeal. The suspension of the sentence has been extended to the three others also.
Justice Bechu, then stated that the ramifications of not suspending the conviction of Faizal are enormous.
“The consequence is even for the nation also. (Due to the disqualification) the cumbersome process of elections will have to be started, and the exorbitant cost of a Parliamentary election will have to be borne by the nation and indirectly by the people of this Country,” reads an excerpt from the order.
It further added, “The enormity of administrative exercises required for the conduct of an election will inevitably lead to various developmental activities in the Union Territory of Lakshadweep coming to a halt for a few weeks at least. Despite all these exercises and financial burdens, the maximum period for which the elected candidate can function will be only a period less than fifteen months.”
According to the court, the societal interest in averting an expensive election that too, when the elected candidate can continue for a limited period alone if the fresh election is conducted, cannot be brushed aside.
Faizal, who was Lakshadweep MP, was disqualified under the Representation of Peoples Act 1951, after a Kavaratti Sessions Court sentenced him and three others to a 10-year jail term on January 11. He and the three others were charged with attempting to kill Mohammed Salih, son-in-law of later Congress leader and former union minister PM Sayeed, during the 2009 Lok Sabha polls.
On January 27, the Election Commission of India had informed the Supreme Court that it will act in line with Kerala HC order suspending the sentence of Faizal.