The Supreme Court on Wednesday told Nationalist Congress Party leader and Lakshadweep MP Mohammed Faizal that there cannot be a separate norm for a lawmaker on suspension of conviction and sentence in a criminal case.
A bench of justices KM Joseph and BV Nagarathna said, "When there is a prima facie opinion based on materials before the court that it is a case of acquittal only then suspension of conviction and sentence can be done. There cannot be a separate norm for Member of Parliament and member of legislative assembly for suspension of conviction and sentences."
The remarks were made by the court after senior advocate AM Singhvi, appearing for Faizal, said that what weighed in the mind of the Kerala high court while suspending his conviction and sentence is that he is an elected representative and if his conviction and sentence is not stayed it will lead to his disqualification and subsequently polls need to be held.
The bench said that it has to be in exceptional circumstances when the conviction needs to be stayed and it cannot be a norm.
Justice Joseph told Singhvi that there were roughly 16 injuries including on the brain of the victim and the statement of the local doctor is that had he not received timely treatment, he would have died.
"There is also a statement that the victim was airlifted and put in the ICU of the hospital, where he had to undergo treatment for two weeks and the high court says it is a case of simple injury. Principally, it is the act and intention and not the result, which counts," the bench said.
Singhvi said injury is not caused by sharp edge weapons but the blunt side and statements of prosecution witnesses keeps on getting better and better like wine.
Additional solicitor general KM Nataraj, appearing for the Union Territory, said that there are three points which are of concern -- first the fact that the seat will fall vacant and polls would cost the exchequer.
"Secondly suspension of conviction and sentence should be in rarest of the cases and thirdly the court has to see the criminal antecedents of the convict," he said.
The bench asked Singhvi whether the high court should go into all these aspects.
It directed Nataraj to furnish the English translation of prosecution witnesses and listed the matter for further hearing on April 21.
The top court earlier in the day disposed of Faizal's plea against his disqualification as Member of Parliament in view of Lok Sabha Secretariat's notification restoring his membership.
It took on record the notification of Lok Sabha Secretariat restoring the membership of Faizal, who was disqualified from the lower house in January following his conviction in a criminal case with a 10-year jail term.
On February 20, the top court had issued notice to Faizal on the plea of Union Territory challenging the order of the Kerala high court.
Earlier, the Union territory administration said the suspension of Faizal's conviction and sentence in an attempt to murder case by the Kerala High Court will have wider ramifications.
It had said that the high court had erred in suspending the conviction and sentence of Faizal.
On January 30, the top court had agreed to hear a plea by the Lakshadweep administration challenging the January 25 order of the high court that had suspended the conviction of Faizal in an attempt to murder case.
Earlier, Faizal was disqualified from the membership of the Lok Sabha from January 11, the date of his conviction by a sessions court in Kavaratti, according to a notification issued on January 13 by the Lok Sabha Secretariat.
Later, on January 25, the high court had suspended his conviction and sentence until disposal of the appeal before it, saying that not doing so would result in fresh elections for his vacant seat which would impose an immense financial burden on the government and the public.
In the plea, filed through advocate Akshay Amritanshu, the Union territory's administration has said through the interim order, the high court has suspended the conviction and sentence imposed on Faizal till the disposal of the appeal before it.
"In the present case, the respondent no.1 (Faizal) failed to make out any exceptional circumstance for his conviction to be suspended and the reason assigned by the high court for suspension of conviction and sentence is alien to the exercise of jurisdiction under Section 389 (of the) CrPC," it said.
The plea claimed the implication of the interim order is that "any and every disqualification of an elected representative would automatically have to be suspended, as every conviction leading to disqualification and consequently bye-election, would call for (i) financial burden to the state exchequer and (ii) limited/lesser tenure of the elected candidate".
It has said the high court has failed to appreciate the drastic effect of suspension of conviction on rule of law, public interest and the principle of decriminalisation/purity of politics should far outweigh any interest of Faizal.
"The high court had misdirected itself while observing that holding of elections would lead to various developmental activities in Lakshadweep coming to a halt for a few weeks. It is submitted that holding of elections is an essential feature of democracy," the plea has said.
It said an elected member of Parliament, who stands convicted of attempt to murder along with being an accused in three other cases, is a "serious reflection" of the character of the accused.