Kerala High Court

Kerala High Court: In an application seeking suspension of conviction and sentence passed by the Court of Sessions, Kavaratti, Bechu Kurian Thomas, J. suspended the conviction and sentence of imprisonment against Member of Parliament (‘MP’) from the Union Territory of Lakshadweep until the disposal of appeal against the decision of Sessions Court. The Court refused to suspend the conviction of other petitioners, however, suspended their sentence. The instant matter relates to the incident of violence occurred on 16-04-2009. The Court of Sessions found 4 out of 37 accused persons guilty and convicted them for offences under Sections 143, 147, 148, 448, 427, 324, 342, 307 and 506 read with Section 149 of the Penal Code, 1860 through judgment dated 11-01-2023. One among the petitioners, Mohammed Faizal was a sitting MP from Lakshadweep since 2014 until 11-01-2023, when Sessions Court decided the criminal matter. His disqualification from the post of MP as per Section 8(3) of the Representation of Peoples Act, 1951 was notified and a press note was issued on 18-01-2023 calling for Constituency elections.

The Court referred to K.C. Sareen v. CBI, (2001) 6 SCC 584, Ravikant S. Patil v. Sarvabhouma S. Bagali, (2007) 1 SCC 673, Navjot Singh Sidhu v. State of Punjab, (2007) 2 SCC 574, Sanjay Dutt v. State of Maharashtra, (2009) 5 SCC 787, Lily Thomas v. Union of India, (2013) 7 SCC 653, Shyam Narain Pandey v. State of U.P., (2014) 8 SCC 909, Lok Prahari v. Election Commission of India, (2018) 18 SCC 114 and culled out the following principles to be regarded while deciding the present mater:

  • Difference between suspension of sentence and conviction;

  • Liberal consideration of suspension of sentence when an appeal is filed against the conviction with a fixed sentence;

  • Duty of Courts to look at all aspects while exercising power of suspending conviction in exceptional cases;

  • Stay of conviction not the rule but exception to be restored in rare cases;

  • Power to stay conviction must be exclusive to circumstances when failure may lead to injustice and irreversible consequences; and

  • Petitioner to draw the Appellate Court’s attention to the specific consequences apprehended if conviction is not stayed for obtaining an order of stay of conviction.

The Court also relied on Ravikant S. Patil v. Sarvabhouma S. Bagali, (2007) 1 SCC 673 and Lily Thomas v. Union of India, (2013) 7 SCC 653 wherein, the Supreme Court has clarified that “If a sitting Member of the Parliament is convicted and a stay or suspension of conviction is granted by the Appellate Court, the disqualification will cease to operate from the date of suspension/stay.”

The Court also noted the repercussions of not suspending the Lakshadweep MP’s conviction, i.e., the exorbitant cost and cumbersome process of Parliamentary elections, enormity of administrative exercises, several developmental activities in Lakshadweep coming to a halt, etc. Further, it said that despite all these exercises and financial burdens, the maximum period for which the elected candidate can serve will be only a period of less than fifteen months.Apart from this, the Court also considered the weapons alleged to be used by the accused persons, the nature of injuries and the state of person after injury. While comparing the intent and the act, the Court commented that “despite possessing sharp-edged weapons, accused persons chose to use only the blunt sides of those weapons and not the sharp edges.”

The case in hand falls under rare and exceptional circumstances, and the ramifications of not suspending the conviction are enormous in the Court’s opinion. Thus, the Court suspended Lakshadweep MP’s conviction and sentence of imprisonment passed by the Sessions Court till the disposal of appeal against the said judgment.

While dealing with the other petitioners, the Court refused to suspend their conviction. Respecting the limited period of sentence, the Court suspended their sentence till the disposal of appeal.

[Sayed Mohammed Noorul Ameer v. U.T. Administration of Lakshadweep, 2023 SCC OnLine Ker 604, decided on 25-01-2023]

Judgment by: Bechu Kurian Thomas

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For Petitioners: Advocate P. Vijaya Bhanu, Advocate Sasthamangalam S. Ajithkumar V.S. Thoshin, Advocate Satheesh Mohanan, Advocate P.A. Meera, Advocate Sreejith S. Nair, Advocate Colin Antony D’Cruz, Advocate Sekhar G. Thampi, Advocate Girisankar Jyothikumar Sheena, Advocate Reshma M.S., Advocate Nikita J. Mendez, Advocate Sruthy N. Bhat.;

For Respondents: Advocate S. Manu, Advocate K.N. Nataraj, Advocate Ajit G. Anjarlekar, Advocate G.P. Shinod, Advocate Govind Padmanaabhan, Advocate Atul Mathews, Advocate Gayathri S.B.

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