The Supreme Court Friday set aside a condition imposed by the Allahabad High Court while granting bail to Samajwadi Party MLA Azam Khan and said it is “disturbed” about the new trend where courts are referring to matters which are “unrelated” to the consideration of bail pleas. The apex court set aside the condition imposed by the high court which had directed the District Magistrate of Rampur in Uttar Pradesh to take possession of land attached to the Jauhar University campus in Uttar Pradesh.
Observing that it is becoming a “pattern now,” that unrelated matters are taken into consideration while dealing with bail pleas, a bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and J B Pardiwala said the courts must confine it to the applicant and the case before it. “We are getting such order repeatedly. Only two days back, we had the occasion to set aside similar order,” the bench observed.
“It is becoming a pattern now. In bail and anticipatory bail, you confine it to the bail applicant and the case before you. How can other matters be relevant? This is a new feature which we are noticing from different orders,” it observed. While setting aside the bail condition imposed by the high court directing the District Magistrate to take possession of the land, the apex court retained the other conditions which were relevant for the grant of bail to Khan, who is the Chancellor of Mohammad Ali Jauhar University.
“This is yet another matter where we find that the high court has referred to matters which are unrelated to the consideration of prayer for bail relating to the crime registered against the concerned accused,” the bench said. It noted that Additional Solicitor General (ASG) S V Raju, appearing for the state, has urged the court to impose additional conditions that Khan be directed to refrain from entering Rampur district during the bail period. “We are not impressed by this submission,” the bench said.
During the arguments, the ASG urged the bench to impose a condition that Khan should not enter Rampur district for at least six months as the witnesses are there and he is a very influential person. The apex court said the authorities, acting upon the observations made in the high court judgement, had initiated action including sealing of certain premises as noted in a May 18 communication.
“All actions taken by the revenue authorities or state authorities in reference to the observations made in the impugned bail order dated May 10, 2022, be deemed to have been effaced from the record,” it said. However, the bench said it would not preclude the competent authority to initiate action independently based on other tangible material, information/documents, or evidence available to initiate action under the concerned legislation, including in respect of the management and properties of the university.
“In terms of these observations, we direct the joint magistrate/deputy district magistrate to take immediate steps for unsealing the property referred to in the communication dated May 18, 2022,” the bench said. It observed that the high court, having noted the stand taken by the applicant before it, ought to have dealt with only those aspects of the matter and not ventured into issues that were completely unrelated to the consideration of prayer for bail.
The bench, while retaining the other conditions imposed by the high court, observed that these conditions shall operate during the bail period and Khan must adhere to them. “Mr. ASG we should tell you that we are disturbed about this trend,” the bench orally observed. The top court disposed of the pleas, including the appeal filed by Khan against the May 10 order of the high court.
During the hearing, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Khan, referred to the condition imposed by the high court directing the District Magistrate to take possession of the land and said the apex court had on May 27 stayed it. The ASG said Khan should not be granted bail as there are allegations of encroachment upon government land. The bench said the state has not challenged the grant of bail to Khan.
“You are making half-hearted attempts,” the bench observed, adding, “We will set aside this part of the order.” On May 27, a vacation bench of the top court stayed the high court’s bail condition imposed on Khan directing the District Magistrate to take possession of the land attached to the Jauhar University campus. It had said that prima facie the bail condition imposed on Khan was disproportionate and sounds like a decree of a civil court. On May 10, the high court while granting interim bail to Khan directed the Rampur District Magistrate to take possession of the enemy property attached to the campus of Jauhar University by June 30, 2022, and raise a boundary wall with barbed wire around it.
It had said that on completion of the mentioned exercise of taking possession of the land to the satisfaction of the DM, Rampur, the interim bail of Khan shall be converted into regular bail. On May 19, the top court while exercising its powers under Article 142 of the Constitution granted Khan (73) interim bail in an alleged cheating case paving way for his release from prison.
Khan, who is an MLA from Rampur Sadar constituency, was lodged in the Sitapur jail of the State for more than two years. An FIR was lodged at Azem Nagar police station in Rampur against Khan and others in 2019 for alleged grabbing of enemy property and misappropriation of public money of more than hundreds of crores of rupees.
With inputs from News18