Supreme Court adjourns hearing on bail pleas of Azam Khan, his son

The Supreme Court on Friday adjourned its hearing on bail pleas filed by Samajwadi Party leaders Mohammad Azam Khan and his son Mohammad Abdullah Azam Khan, accused of offences including forgery and fraudulently obtaining a permanent account and passport number. 

A two-judge bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and R. Subhash Reddy adjourned the matter after an adjournment application was filed before it.

The Allahabad High Court had on November 26, 2020, dismissed the bail application of the father and son with strong comments that personal liberty has to be weighed and balanced with societal/public interest at large, and ensure that the Course of Justice is not thwarted by powerful and influential accused persons. 

While replying to arguments made by the Counsel for the petitioners that ingredient of the offence (forgery) is not made out taking the allegation and evidence on face value, the High Court had said, the evidence at the stage of bail cannot be scrutinized and discussed. “The evidence, prima facie, link the applicants with commission of the offence is sufficient. The ingredients of some of the offence is not made out, as urged by the counsel for the applicant, is not of much relevance in the backdrop of the principles to be applied and considered in the facts and circumstances of a given case,” said the single-judge bench of Justice Suneet Kumar of the Allahabad High Court. 

The High Court had pronounced its order on the three bail applications filed by Azam Khan and his son Mohammad Abdullah Azam Khan in the FIR registered against the former for offences under Sections 420, 467, 468, 471, 120B IPC and against the latter in Sections 420, 467, 468, 471 IPC and Section 12(1A) Passport Act, 1967. The allegations are against the father and son of forging and fraudulently obtaining Permanent Account Number and Passport. It was alleged against Mohammad Abdullah Azam Khan that he conspired with his father (Azam Khan), a former Cabinet Minister, in filing nomination papers by mentioning wrong PAN wherein the date of birth was mentioned as 30.09.1990, whereas in the earlier PAN, the date of birth was mentioned 01.01.1993. The High Court had also noted, “It is alleged that the purpose of cheating and forgery of documents recording date of birth was to gain undue benefit to contest the Assembly election, whereas, on the earlier recorded date of birth (01.01.1993) of Abdullah Azam Khan was ineligible.”

The Counsel for the respondent before the High Court had submitted, “that applicants are habitual offenders, first applicant (Azam Khan) has criminal antecedents of 91 cases commencing since 1982, second applicant (Abdullah Azam Khan) faces 44 cases and Dr. Tazeen Fatima (wife of Azam Khan) has 32 cases pending against her. It is urged that most of the cases pertain to fraud and forgery, whereby, large parcel of land belonging to the Central and State Government has been usurped by the applicants and transferred to a private trust by manipulating revenue records, waqf deeds, and other documents. Applicants are not entitled to be enlarged on bail as there is reasonable apprehension of witnesses being tampered, considering their status, position and character.”

The High Court had noted the settled principles laid down by the Supreme Court while granting bail. The High Court had noted, “The legislature for the purpose of bail has not used the expression ‘the evidence’ nor ‘bail’ has been defined. The Court therefore is required to apply the settled principles to the facts and circumstances of the case while considering the application for bail.” 

“Merely, for the reason that the applicants have been enlarged on bail in a case where allegation is of procuring forged document pertaining to date of birth cannot be viewed mechanically while considering the bail applications, in other cases, though, the genesis is rooted in forged date of birth. It cannot be said, in the given facts that the instant case is a consequence of the alleged corrections of the subsequent document based on the date of birth. There is allegation of criminal conspiracy, deception, misuse of office and position in procuring forged document by the first applicant to benefit the second applicant (Abdullah Azam Khan),” said the Court. 

It said, “The forged date of birth was procured during the tenure of the first applicant (Azam Khan) being Cabinet Minister; Municipal Corporation was under his ministry. The allegations reflect deep rooted criminal conspiracy; gross misuse of position, exercise of coercion and threat in commission of the offence and perpetuating it.”

“Having regard to the allegations that the applicants did not cooperate with the investigation and court proceedings, consequently, coercive measures had to be adopted against them. Further, having regard to the position and status of the accused persons, the repetition of the offences, and the deep rooted and pervasive influence, applicants exercise in the various departments of the State, there is reasonable apprehension of the witnesses being tampered with, and danger to the course of justice being thwarted,” noted by the High Court while dismissing the bail application. 

“The applicants are at liberty to approach the Court for bail after the witnesses of fact are examined in the trial. In view of the mandate of the Supreme Court in Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay vs Union of India, the trial is expedited,” said the High Court
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