Ramakanta Biswas

The Orissa High Court on Wednesday granted a huge relief to Congress MLA Mohammed Moquim and ordered a stay on his conviction by a vigilance court in a loan fraud case.

The verdict holds significance as Moquim, who represents Barabati-Cuttack Assembly constituency, would have been disqualified as a member of the Orissa Legislative Assembly if he had to serve the three-year rigorous imprisonment handed down by the vigilance court.   

In its 15-page verdict, the State’s apex court treated the case as a rare and exceptional case and observed that the conviction has serious consequences upon the membership of the sitting MLA. 

“High Court or appellate court can put stay order if the petitioner comes under the rare category of case which we call rare and exceptional case. In its 15-page verdict, the Orissa High Court clearly stated that as there was no allegations against Md Moquim during the filing of his nomination and the conviction has serious consequences upon the membership of a sitting MLA. Therefore, referring to a verdict of the Supreme Court the HC has ordered a stay on the conviction,” Moquim’s counsel and senior lawyer Pitambar Acharya said.

The HC has fixed February 22, 2023 as the date of the hearing of the primary petition in the case. 

Soon after the HC order, the Congress said, "The people of Cuttack town elected me and their hope and aspiration are with us. The sudden conviction order had put an uncertainty on my membership as MLA. The High Court now has ordered a stay on the conviction and again given me a chance to serve the people. I will not hesitate to say that I have no involvement in the case, no corruption was done and I had not committed any offence." 

On October 10, the Orissa High Court had accepted Moquim’s petition challenging the jail term awarded to him by the vigilance case and granted him bail.

While granting the bail, the HC asked the Barabati-Cuttack MLA to furnish a bail bond of Rs 1 lakh with two sureties. The court had also stayed the penalty imposed on the legislator in the Odisha Rural Housing & Development Corporation (ORHDC) corruption case.

Subsequently, on October 13, Justice BP Routray had reserved the verdict in the case after hearing the arguments of both parties in the case.  

The Congress leader was sentenced to three years of rigorous imprisonment by a special vigilance court in ORHDC corruption case last month. The court of Special Judge (Vigilance), Bhubaneswar had also sentenced former IAS officer and Managing Director of ORHDC, Vinod Kumar, Company Secretary, ORHDC Swosti Ranjan Mohapatra, and realtor Peeyus Mohanty, Director, Metro Builders Pvt Ltd to three years jail. 

Reported by Gautam Panda, OTV