SC Upholds Allahabad HC’s Order to Disqualify SP Leader Abdullah Azam Khan for Discrepancy in Date of Birth

Supreme Court Law Insider

Sakina Tashrifwala

Published on: November 7, 2022 at 20:06 IST

The Allahabad High Court‘s order to disqualify Rampur MLA Mohd. Abdullah Azam Khan for failing to reach the age of 25 by the election’s date as required by Article 173(b) of the Constitution was quashed by a Division Bench of the Supreme Court of India on Monday.

Khan’s electoral ambitions suffered a severe setback in 2019 when petitioner Nawab Kazam Ali Khan filed a case with the Allahabad High Court, alleging that the young Samajwadi Party politician had misrepresented his age in order to run in the assembly elections.

The appeal was denied by the panel of judges, which was made up of Justices Ajay Rastogi and B.V. Nagarathna. Justice B.V. Nagarathna wrote a separate but concurring opinion.

Senior Attorney Kapil Sibal, who defended the appellant, made a lengthy argument about how the High Court neglected to consider “fundamental principles of the law of evidence.”

The main thrust of his argument was that, in accordance with Sections 60 and 61 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, the appellant had adequately proven the fact of his birth by relying on hospital records and correlating those data with primary and documentary evidence.

Sibal argued that the petitioner had failed to meet his burden of disproving or displacing this information because he had solely relied on the date listed in a school record, which was unsupported by any other primary or documentary evidence.

In contrast, counsel Aadil Singh Boparai asserted that because the petitioner (respondent in this appeal) had successfully met the initial burden put on him, the burden has now been transferred to the other party.

He fervently argued that even if the evidence presented by the appellant to refute the allegation against Khan was deemed relevant under Section 35, such evidence did not inspire confidence and would not justify overturning the High Court’s order.

He went through transcripts from the cross-examination of key witnesses.

The Bench rejected the arguments put up on favour of the legislator who was disqualified.

Justice Nagarathna had expressed her misgivings throughout the hearings, saying, “Abdullah Azam Khan only had one birth. He cannot have two birthdates. Regarding the correct date of birth, we must make a finding.”

In the end, the Bench rejected the appeal and upheld the appellant’s disqualification.

Mohd. Abdullah Azam Khan, the appellant, is the son of senior Samajwadi Party official and Rampur Member of Parliament Azam Khan.

On a Samajwadi Party ticket, Khan ran for the 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly Elections from the Swar constituency in Rampur and won.

However, in December 2019, an Allahabad High Court single-judge bench invalidated his membership in the State Legislature on the grounds that he was under 25 years old when he filed his nomination, on the date that the nomination paper was scrutinised, and on the date that the results were announced.

Justice Surya Prakash Kesarwani granted the election petition, noting that Khan lacked the qualifications required by Article 173(b) of the Constitution to be selected to occupy the State legislature seat.

Khan was also detained in February 2020 along with his mother Tazeen Fatma, father Azam Khan, and other family members on a number of accusations, including defrauding for allegedly faking Khan’s birth certificate.

Fatma received bail in December of the same year.

Khan wasn’t actually released from Sitapur Jail in Uttar Pradesh until January 2022. After serving 27 months in prison, his father was freed later that month in May.

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