Controversial Uttar Pradesh minister Azam Khan on Tuesday faced severe haranguing from the Supreme Court, which directed him to appear on Wednesday before the Allahabad High Court to honour a bailable warrant against him due to his non-appearance in a case.
The apex court, which rebuked the Samajwadi Party’s minority face for “hoodwinking” the high court, also expressed surprise that the bailable warrant could not be served on a serving minister of the Uttar Pradesh cabinet.
“Where is the chairman (Khan) of UP Jal Nigam? Is he in Allahabad or Lucknow,” asked an angry bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar. Khan’s counsel, with some hesitation to inform about his whereabouts, said “he will appear whenever he is asked”.
Watch What Else Is making News
At this, the bench asked “doesn’t he have a helicopter?” Again, there was some hesitation on the part of the advocates’ appearing for Khan to respond to the query and no clear answer emerged.
The top court said “the (high) court feels you (Khan) are hoodwinking it. It is asking you to appear but you are not appearing. You are such a person that no bailable warrant can be served upon you. He is only an ex-officio chairman (of the UP Jal Nigam).”
When Khan’s counsel pointed out that he was also a minister and would comply with the high court’s order after completion of Assembly elections on March 11, the bench shot back, saying “see how much time you have already been given”.
The high court had sought his personal appearance on March 1 and 6.
“You have not gone to the court. Bailable warrant was issued, even then you did not appear. You are a chairman but the bailable warrant was not served upon you. You have never gone to the court. You go and tell the high court whatever you want to explain.
“There is no reason for you not to go. There is no reason for you not to be served with the bailable warrant. There is also no reason for you that you did not attend the high court. You are a minister but even then the warrant was not served upon you,” the bench, also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and Sanjay Kishan Kaul, said in an oral observation.
The hard-hitting remarks against Khan came a day before the final round of the ongoing assembly polls in the state.
Khan enjoys a considerable clout in the ruling party in the state as he holds high-profile portfolios ranging from Parliamentary Affairs and Urban Development to Minority Welfare and Haj in the Akhilesh Yadav government.
The top court refused to interfere with the orders of the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court and said the reason for being pre-occupied with electioneering was not substantiated as “there is no indication that he had meetings on those days”.
When the bench categorically asked why Khan had not appeared before the high court on the last two dates, the lawyer said “he was busy in the election process”.
To this, the bench said, “But he does not say (in his affidavit filed before the high court yesterday) whether he is involved in the election process. We don’t know if he actually had an election programme on those dates”.
When his counsel said he was busy in “public rallies and road shows”, the bench said, “Don’t make general statements.”
The high court had ordered issuance of bailable warrant against Khan on a service petition filed by the UP Jal Nigam in 2013.
The petition was filed challenging the judgement of the UP Public Services Tribunal in favour of Assistant Engineer D K Singh, against whom the Jal Nigam had initiated recovery proceedings in a case of alleged financial irregularities.
The high court had passed the order against Khan after rejecting an exemption application moved on his behalf. The high court, in its earlier order on February 17, had said that a document filed by the petitioners appeared to be forged and fictitious and issued notices to the petitioners to show cause as to why appropriate proceedings be not initiated against them for forgery and committing contempt/criminal
contempt of court.