- SC directed EC to defer till Thursday issue of notification for bypoll in Rampur Sadar in UP
- A bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud also directed Rampur court to hear Khan's application
- Apex Court was critical of speed with which Khan's disqualification proceedings were done by
Azam Khan disqualification: In a relief to Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Azam Khan, the Supreme Court today directed the Election Commission (EC) to defer till November 10 the issue of notification for the bypoll in Rampur Sadar in Uttar Pradesh, which fell vacant following his disqualification after his conviction in a hate speech case. A bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud also directed the Rampur court to hear and dispose of Khan's application for a stay on his conviction on Thursday (November 10) itself.
The apex court was critical of the speed with which Khan's disqualification proceedings were done by the Uttar Pradesh legislative assembly.
"Look at the alacrity with which you (assembly) proceeded," observed the bench, which also comprised justices Hima Kohli and JB Pardiwala. Referring to some other cases, mentioned by senior advocate P Chidambaram, appearing for Khan, where disqualification of lawmakers were done belatedly, the bench said that "you cannot pick and choose people" and favoured granting an opportunity to Khan to seek legal remedy.
"The additional sessions judge at Rampur before whom the appeal has been filed shall prepone the hearing on the application for stay of conviction (of Azam Khan) and take it up on November 10,” the bench said in the order.
"The application for stay of conviction shall be disposed of on the same day,” it added.
Disregarding the vehement opposition of the poll panel, the bench said the issuance of the gazette notification for declaring the election schedule may be issued on or after November 11 depending upon the outcome of Khan's application of stay on conviction. The bench said that the lawmaker should have been granted an opportunity to avail legal remedy of appeal to seek stay on the conviction to save himself from disqualification.
The bench, which disposed of the plea, was prima facie of view that the stay, if any, on the conviction by an appellate court would be effective from the date of conviction in the trial court and as a result the disqualification becomes inoperative. Chidambaram said that on the very next day of Khan's conviction in the case on October 27, the state assembly declared his seat vacant. Such a swift action was "unprecedented", he alleged, adding the move was “politically motivated”.
He said the leader has filed an appeal against the conviction in which he has been granted interim bail and that the sessions court has posted the application for hearing on November 15. Senior Advocate Arvind Datar, appearing for the poll panel, said the disqualification upon conviction in a criminal case is automatic and Khan cannot be granted such a relief as the process has attained finality after the assembly took a decision to this effect.
During the hearing, the bench suggested to the poll panel that the issuance of gazette notification for the election schedule be deferred for 76 hours to afford an opportunity to Khan to seek a stay on his conviction. The poll panel initially objected to the suggestion saying if the appellate court stays the conviction then Khan can file his nomination for the bypoll.
"Allow him reasonable time. Defer it for three days. Otherwise you are doing this selectively depending on what political affiliation the convict has," the CJI said.
On October 27, Khan was convicted in the hate speech case and sent to three years in jail by a Rampur court. The MP-MLA court in Rampur also granted bail to the MLA in the 2019 case. On October 28, the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly Secretariat had announced the disqualification of Khan from the House. Principal Secretary of the UP Legislative Assembly had said that the Assembly Secretariat declared the Rampur Sadar assembly seat as vacant.
(With PTI inputs)