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SC uses special powers, grants Azam Khan interim bail in land-grabbing case

The Supreme Court Thursday granted interim bail to Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan in a land-grabbing case, exercising its special powers under Article 142 of the Constitution as it flagged the “peculiar” circumstances of the matter.

A bench headed by Justice L Nageswara Rao said it is of the view that “this is a fit case wherein this court should exercise its jurisdiction under Article 142 of the Constitution of India and grant interim bail to the petitioner in the peculiar facts and circumstances of the case, till he files the application for regular bail and the same is considered by the competent court”.

The bench also comprising Justices B R Gavai and A S Bopanna noted that Khan had already been granted bail in 87 cases against him. It said that even though the FIR in the case before it was registered on March 18, 2020 and charge sheet was filed on September 10 the same year, Khan had been implicated in the FIR “only now…i.e., after a period of 1 year and 7 months, by order dated 6th May, 2022 passed by the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate, Rampur”.

“Taking into consideration the delay in implication of the petitioner in FIR…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…he has already been released on bail”, the court said.

It said the interim bail will continue till a competent court decides on his plea for regular bail and that if it is rejected, the interim bail shall continue for two more weeks from the date of that court’s order on the bail request.

Article 142 of the Constitution gives the top court wide powers to do “complete justice” in a case.

It was alleged in the FIR that the land of one Imamuddin Qureshi — who went to Pakistan during Partition — was recorded as enemy property, but Khan grabbed it in collusion with others. The FIR was lodged at the Azem Nagar police station in Rampur under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act.

It also accuses Khan and others of misappropriation of public money running into more than hundreds of crores of rupees.

Appearing for Khan, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal said that “the ruling party is making every attempt possible to keep the petitioner behind the bars by implicating him in one FIR after the other” and that “the present case is” one “of political vendetta”. He contended that “the said criminal cases/FIRs were filed by the ruling party with malafide intention”.

Opposing this, Additional Solicitor General S V Raju said Khan “is a heavyweight politician and due to his pressure, though he was involved in a number of criminal acts, no FIRs were registered against him”. He added that the SP leader “is a land grabber and is a habitual offender” and that “merely because” he “is a politician, he cannot be permitted to bypass the remedy of filing regular bail application before the appropriate Court”.

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