'Expensive Polls': HC Suspends Lakshadweep MP's Conviction, Days After EC Releases Bypoll Plan

The haste with which Mohammed Faizal had been disqualified as MP and the Election Commission announced the by-election schedule had raised questions.

New Delhi: The Kerala high court has suspended the conviction and sentence imposed on Lakshadweep MP and Nationalist Congress party leader Mohammed Faizal for attempt to murder – days after the Election Commission announced the schedule for by-election in the seat.

On January 18, the EC announced the schedule for bypolls in the Lok Sabha seat in Lakshadweep – a day after Faizal moved Kerala high court challenging his conviction.

A sessions court had, on January 11, convicted Faizal in the case of the of murder Mohammed Salih, the son-in-law of former Union minister and Congress leader, P.M. Sayeed, during the 2009 Lok Sabha election. The court had also given him a 10-year sentence.

Reports had said that among the 35 accused in the case, only Faizal, his brother and two others were convicted.

The conviction led to his disqualification, however the speed with which Lok Sabha Secretariat issued the disqualification notification against Faizal – without waiting to see if the conviction against him could be stayed as it has been now – raised questions.

On Wednesday, January 25, Justice Bechu Kurian Thomas said that the “decriminalisation of politics is an essential requirement of every democracy,” while pronouncing the suspension of Faizal’s conviction and sentence.

Bar and Bench has reported that the judge commented on the consequences and circumstances in which expensive elections are conducted.

“The societal interest in averting an expensive election that too when the elected candidate can continue for a limited period alone if the fresh election is conducted cannot be ignored by this court,” Justice Thomas said.

The judge said that the ramifications of not suspending the conviction are “enormous” and “drastic” – not just for Faizal but “also for the nation.”

“A cumbersome process of election will have to be started and its exorbitant cost will have to be borne by the nation and by the people of this country…The enormity of administrative exercises req for the conduct of election will inevitably lead to various developmental activities in Lakshadweep coming to a halt for a few weeks at least,” the judge said.

The court also noted that any elected MP will in fact be able to function for fewer than 15 months, until the next Lok Sabha polls.

The Kerala high court also suspended the sentence of the other three convicted in the case, but not their convictions.