Vikash Sharma

In a major jolt to senior Congress leader Mohammad Moquim ahead of the 2024 elections, the Orissa High Court on Wednesday upheld the lower court verdict that had earlier awarded a three-year jail term to him in connection with the alleged Odisha Rural Housing & Development Corporation (ORHDC) corruption case.

It is pertinent to mention here that a special vigilance court in September 2022 awarded the jail term to the Barabati-Cuttack MLA. However, the Congress leader soon got interim bail from Orissa High Court on a bail bond of Rs 1 lakh with two sureties.

The vigilance court had then also awarded a three-year jail term to the director of Metro Builders Private Limited, Peeyush Mohanty and former OHRDC company secretary Swosti Ranjan Mohapatra in the case.

It was then alleged that the loan fraud took place when Kumar was posted as the managing director of ORHDC between January 4, 2000 and May 15, 2001. Challenging the verdict, the senior Congress leader had moved Orissa High Court.

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What Next For Moquim? 

Under such circumstances, all eyes will be on Moquim’s next move as speculation is rife that he is keen to contest again for the Barabati-Cuttack Assembly segment which he had snatched from the BJD in the last election.

Only BJD has nominated senior leader Prakash Behera, who had joined the party after quitting BJD recently, as its candidate for the Barabati-Cuttack seat. The BJP and the Congress are yet to announce their candidates for the prestigious Assembly seat.

Can Moquim Contest Election?

As per some law experts, under the People’s Representatives Act those who are awarded a two-year or more jail term, cannot contest polls for six years.

Moquim’s hope to contest election will remain alive only if he can get relief from the Supreme Court and file a petition challenging the order.

Meanwhile, senior BJD leader Debasish Samantaray said, “It was a Vigilance case related to corruption and several ORHDC officials have been jailed. Mohammad Moquim and his partner were also convicted by the court but got a stay. As per Election Law, those who will be convicted for two years and above cannot contest polls for the next six years.”

In his reaction, Mohammad Moquim said, “We will examine the matter after getting the judgement copy and an appropriate decision will be taken after discussions with the legal team.”

Moquim further said that there is still 1 month’s time for nomination and as it is a legal battle all the necessary measures will be taken after reviewing legal remedial measures.

“I have respect for the High Court order and only after going through all aspects, I will comment further on the matter,” Moquim added.

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