BJP’s Vikram Saini disqualified after 23 days of conviction, wife a candidate now; SP’s Azam Khan removed very next day

This disproportionate action was pointed out by the Supreme Court; now the bypolls will be held on December 5 

Vikram Saini

The Allahabad High Court suspended the two-year sentence of disqualified BJP MLA Vikram Singh Saini convicted for the Muzaffarnagar riots, pending appeal before it. The bench of Justice Samit Gopal noted that he was out on bail during the pendency of trial and this was a case of no injury, and on this basis granted bail and suspended the sentence. By his conviction Saini became the first political leader to be held guilty for his role in the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots.

Saini has filed an appeal against the October 11, 2022 judgment passed by the Special MP/MLA Court, Muzaffarnagar whereby he was convicted under sections 147[rioting], 148[rioting with deadly weapon], 336[Act endangering life or personal safety of others] read with 149[unlawful assembly], 323[voluntarily causing hurt], 504 [Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace], 506[criminal intimidation] as well as section 7 [Molesting a person to prejudice of employment or business] of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act  and sentenced to 2 years in prison.

The appellant argued that he is not a previous convict and of the 2 other criminal case sgainat him, he is acquitted in one and the trial for the other is pending wherein he is charged under section 153(A) of the IPC. He further argued that there is no credible evidence against him, no public witness to support prosecution case and it is a case of no injury. Further, a balkati (a spear like weapon) was recovered from the house of the appellant but the same was planted, argued the appellant and pointed out that he was acquitted of charges of attempt to murder.

The court noted that the appellant was on bail pending trial and that this is a case of no injury thus decided to grant bail and suspended his sentence, pending appeal.

The riots claimed 62 lives and resulted in the displacement of over 60,000 people in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts of Uttar Pradesh.

On November 7, the Supreme Court asked the Uttar Pradesh Assembly secretariat why different yardsticks had been applied to Samajwadi Party veteran Azam Khan and Saini in the matter of disqualifying them as MLAs over their jail sentences. Khan was sentenced to three years in jail on October 27 over a 2019 hate speech case. While Azam Khan’s Rampur Sadar seat was declared “vacant” a day after his conviction, Saini was disqualified from the Assembly on November 4, that is, 23 days after his conviction.

Status of other cases

In September, Uttar Pradesh minister Kapil Dev Agarwal, VHP leader Sadhvi Prachi, former BJP MLA Ashok Kansal,  former district BJP president Yashpal Panwar and former MP and SP leader Harendra Malik besides former BJP MP Sohan Vir Singh were granted bail and their non-bailable warrants were cancelled after they surrendered in a special MP/MLA court in a case relating to violating prohibitory orders and inciting communal tension during the riots. It was alleged that they had taken part in the panchayat meeting in Nagla Madore village where they violated the prohibitory orders and incited violence through their speeches on August 30, 2013, reported NDTV.

In October, in the same case, Union Minister Sanjeev Balyan and Narsinghanand Saraswati alias Deepak Tyagi, priest of Dasna (Gaziabad) temple appeared in the special MP/MLA Court whereby bail was granted to them and their non-bailable warrants were cancelled.

On March 25, 2021, a Special MP/MLA Court accepted the state government’s request and allowed the withdrawal of the case of inciting violence against Uttar Pradesh minister Suresh Rana, BJP MLA Sangeet Som, former BJP MP Bhartendu Singh, and VHP leader Sadhvi Prachi. The government decided in the public interest not to proceed further with their prosecution. The allegations against Som, among others, was that he circulated a fake video showing the murder of a youth claiming that it depicted the lynching of two Jat boys, Sachin and Gaurav, by a Muslim mob in Kawal village that was instrumental in spreading the violence. The Justice Vishnu Sahai Commission, which submitted its report two years after the violence, had indicted Som for his role in the incident. But a special investigation team (SIT) formed to probe the incident gave Som a clean chit in 2017. In its final report presented to the court, the investigation officer claimed they had found no evidence against Som.

While presenting date relating to pending cases against legislators, Senior Advocate Vijay Hansaria informed the Supreme Court in August 2021 that the UP government withdrew 77 cases related to Muzaffarnagar riots under Section 321 of CrPC without giving any reason. Many of these cases included serious offences entailing life sentence. The Standing counsel for UP stated that 510 cases relating to the riots were registered in five districts of Meerut zone against 6,869 accused. Chargesheet was filed in 175 of these cases and in 165 cases, final reports were submitted and 170 cases were expunged.

In September 2021, a Sessions Court acquitted 20 persons on charges of setting ablaze and looting several houses during the riots, due to witnesses turning hostile and lack of evidence.

In 2019, an Indian Express investigation found that in 40 of the 41 cases registered relating to the violence against Muslims in Muzaffarnagar, all the accused were acquitted.

Some other prominent persons facing trial include former Uttar Pradesh minister Saeeduzama (Samajwadi Party), his son Salman Saeed, ex-BSP MP Kadir Rana, party’s former MLAs Noor Saleem Rana from Charthawal and Maulana Jamil from Miranpur were booked for allegedly violating prohibitory orders and inciting communal tension by making inflammatory speeches in Khalapur, during the riots. In January this year, the cases were transferred to the Special MP/MLA court.

It is pertinent to note that this is not an exhaustive list of cases relating to Muzaffarnagar riots but only the ones where prominent political leaders were involved.


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