The Supreme Court today allowed the Special Leave Petition filed by the Union Territory of Lakshwadeep challenging the Kerala High Court's decision to suspend the conviction and sentencing of Member of Parliament Mohammed Faizal facing charges related to an attempted murder case. However, deeming it unsuitable to create a void, the Bench chose to uphold the benefits of the previous order (which suspended the conviction), allowing them to remain in effect for Faizal until the High Court reaches a new decision.

The Bench of Justice B.V. Nagarathna and Justice Ujjal Bhuyan in its order stated "We find that the High Court has not considered the position of law as it emerges on the basis of the judgements rendered by this Court with regard to the manner in which an application seeking stay of conviction has to be considered. We also find that the High Court has considered only one aspect of the matter, i.e., the first respondent herein being a member of parliament and a representative of his constituency and any order of suspension will cause a fresh election to be conducted in the Union Territory of Lakshwadeep would result in enormous expenses. We find that the said aspect need not have been the only aspect which could have been considered by the High Court. We find that the High Court ought to have considered the application seeking the conviction of the sentence in its proper perspective and bearing in mind the relevant judgements rendered by this Court and in accordance with the law."

Further continuing the Bench observed, "On this short ground alone, we set aside the impugned order and remand the matter back to the High Court for reconsideration of the application filed by the first respondent herein seeking suspension of conviction. However, we find that from the date of the order 25.01.2023 to date, the first respondent has continued to remain as a Member of Parliament and in that capacity has discharged his duty as a member. Since we are remanding the matter for reconsideration we find that at this stage it may not be just and proper to create a vacuum since we are requesting the High Court to re-consider the application seeking a stay of conviction within a period of 6 weeks from today."

Concluding the Bench stated, "It is needless to clarify that since we are remanding the matter to the High Court to reconsider the application filed by the first respondent herein seeking a stay of conviction, in order to see that there is no vacuum created till the said application is considered by the High Court the benefit of the order impugned shall be extended to the first respondent for the said period. As a result, the appeal is allowed and disposed of in the aforesaid terms. It is needless to further observe that all contentions raised before the parties are kept open to be raised before the High Court and all observations made by us are only for the purpose of disposal of these appeals and for remanding the matter to the High Court."

Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj appeared for the Union Territory of Lakshadweep while Senior Advocate Menaka Guruswamy appeared for the victim while Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi appeared for the MP Mohammed Faizal.

The Kerala High Court had in its impugned order stated that Faizal falls within the category of rare and exceptional circumstances. The ramifications of not suspending the conviction are enormous and keeping the same in view the conviction and sentence of imprisonment imposed upon Fazial on the files of the Sessions Court, Kavarthi, Union Territory of Lakshadweep should be suspended until disposal of the appeal.

"Thus, the consequence of not suspending the conviction of the second accused, as mentioned earlier, is drastic not only for the second petitioner but even for the nation. With the fear of repetition it is observed that 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. 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", held the High Court in its Order.

Recently, the Supreme Court had stayed Congress Leader Rahul Gandhi's conviction in the criminal defamation case over his "Modi surname".

Cause Title: U.T. Administration Of Lakshadweep Vs. Mohammed Faizal [Special Leave to Appeal (Crl.) No. 1644/2023]