Supreme Court releases Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan on interim bail under Article 142 of the Constitution

The politician’s success in securing bail in 87 other cases pending against him weighed with the court in this case.

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THE Supreme Court, on Thursday, directed the release of Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan on interim bail, observing that the interest of justice will demand his release, particularly when he has already been granted bail in 87 other criminal cases against him. It, however, directed Khan to apply for regular bail within two weeks before a competent court. It clarified that its interim order of release will continue till the decision of the competent court in the application for regular bail, and in the event that the regular bail application is decided against Khan, the interim bail will continue to operate for a further period of two weeks from the date of the order passed by the competent court in the application for regular bail.

A division bench comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao, B.R. Gavai and A.S. Bopanna passed the order to this effect, invoking the court’s inherent power under Article 142 of the Constitution of India. The bench was dealing with two writ petitions filed by Khan seeking interim bail in Crime No. 70 of 2020 registered with Police Station Kotwali, Rampur, Uttar Pradesh, for offences punishable under Sections 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property) and 120B (punishment of criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code. Khan also sought a direction from the court that the police be asked to seek prior permission of the court before arresting him in any other case. Besides, he also sought the quashing of the first information report [FIR] against him.

Partially allowing Khan’s petition, the bench observed that an FIR No. 70 of 2020 was registered on March 18, 2020, and the charge­sheet was filed on September 10, 2020. However, Khan is sought to be implicated in the FIR after a period of one year and seven months, by an order passed by the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate, Rampur on May 6.

The bench noted that the main allegation against the petitioner in FIR No.70 of 2020 is of forgery of certificates. The further allegation is that the person who had issued the certificates was not authorized to issue those certificates, the bench added.

It thus proceeded to grant relief to Khan observing “Taking into consideration the delay in the implication of the petitioner in FIR No. 70 of 2020 and the nature of the allegations made therein, we are of the considered view that it will not be in the interest of justice to deprive the petitioner of his personal liberty, particularly when in respect of 87 criminal cases/FIRs, which were the subject matter of Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 39 of 2022, he has already been released on bail. The last of such bail order has been passed on 10th May 2022 by the learned Single Judge of the Allahabad High Court after a gap of so many months from the date of reserving the order, i.e., 4th December 2021”.

Dealing with the submission made by Additional Solicitor General S.V. Raju, for the Uttar Pradesh government, that Khan threatened the Investigation Officer, the bench commented that it was a matter of sheer coincidence that the General Diary entry with regard to said threats was registered on May 17, 2022 at 03:04 hrs., that is, the date on which the case before the Supreme Court was to come up for hearing and was heard.

“We, therefore, do not find it necessary to make any further comments thereon”, the bench added.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who appeared for Khan, had argued that the ruling party in Uttar Pradesh was making every attempt possible to keep Khan behind the bars by implicating him in one FIR after the other. Raju, on the contrary, argued that merely because Khan is a politician, he could not be permitted to by­pass the remedy of filing a regular bail application before the appropriate Court.

Click here to view the Supreme Court’s full order.