We Will Take Action In Accordance With Law: SC Records Statement Of EC On Plea Of Disqualified Lakshadweep MP Challenging Bye-Election
The Supreme Court today heard and disposed of the plea of disqualified Member of Parliament from the Union Territory (UT) of Lakshadweep who had challenged the press release issued by the Election Commission of India which proposed the date of the bye-election as February 27, 2023 in the UT, though the notification for the election has not yet been issued.
"Without going into allegations of malafide and arbitrariness, we dispose of the petition recording the submission that action shall be taken by Election Commission in accordance with law, in light of the stay of conviction ordered by the Kerala High Court" ordered a Bench comprising Justice KM Joseph and Justice BV Nagarathana of the Supreme Court.
Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal appeared for the petitioner Mohammed Faizal, who was elected as a Member of Parliament from the Union Territory of Lakshadweep for a second term in 2019 and apprised the Apex Court that now there is a stay on conviction by the Kerala High Court.
"This petition under Article 32 would not survive. The Election Commission of India will abide by the orders passed, but how are we (election commission) acting malafide?", said Senior Advocate Maninder Singh appearing on behalf of the Election Commission opposing the plea that makes allegations against the EC.
"The very next day you notified? Your notification is on January 13, 2023. You could have found out if any appeal has been filed before the notification was issued", questioned the Bench. "January 18, 2023 is a common press release. It is for various bye-election due. We will proceed in accordance with law", replied Senior Advocate Maninder Singh.
It is to be noted that Faizal has been disqualified by notification dated January 13, 2023, and a press note was issued on January 18, 2023 calling for elections to the Constituency of UT of Lakshadweep.
After hearing both sides, the Court dictated the Order, "A press note came to be issued by the ECI, the first respondent dated 18.2023, indicating that a bye-election will be held on account of the vacancy caused by conviction under Section 307. The petitioner filed a statutory appeal and also moved an application seeking suspension of conviction. The learned single judge of the High Court of Kerala passed an order suspending conviction of the petitioner until dispsal of the appeal subject to depositing the fine within 2 weeks of order".
"Learned Senior Counsel Maninder Singh took objections to the maintainability of the petition under Article 32 and the allegations made therein. However, he submitted that the ECI would take note of the order by the High Court and take action in accordance with law and the ECI was only acting on the notification of Speaker of Lok Sabha dated January 13, 2023 declaring vacancy on account of conviction. Without going into allegations of malafide and arbitrariness, we dispose of the petition recording the submission that action shall be taken by Election Commission in accordance with law, in light of the stay of conviction ordered by the Kerala High Court", it said.
On January 11, the Sessions Court, Kavarthi, Union Territory of Lakshadweep found Mohammed Faizal guilty of the offences under sections 143, 147, 148, 448, 427, 324, 342, 307 and 506 r/w section 149 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and sentenced them to imprisonment for various terms for the different offences, including 10 years imprisonment for the offence under section 307 IPC.
The Kerala High Court suspended the conviction after it was submitted before the Court that if his conviction is not suspended, the consequence will be his disqualification as a Member of Parliament, and therefore, his conviction and sentence imposed may be suspended pending disposal of the appeal.
“If the election to the constituency of Lakshadweep is to be held immediately on account of the conviction and consequent disqualification of the second petitioner, the financial burden upon the Government and indirectly upon the people is immense. Even after incurring enormous expenditure for the election, the elected candidate will have a term of only a period of fewer than fifteen months. The aforesaid irreversible outcome cannot be ignored by this Court since the consequence of not suspending the conviction is drastic. No doubt, the case falls under the category of rare and exceptional situation warranting a suspension of the conviction”, said the High Court while suspending the conviction and sentence of imprisonment imposed upon Faizal till disposal of the appeal on condition that the amount of fine imposed upon him is deposited within two weeks.
Cause Title- Mohammed Faizal P.P. v. Election Commission of India & Anr