Orissa HC confirms Vigilance court conviction, poll setback for Congress MLA Mohammed Moquim

However, Justice BP Routray dismissed Moquim’s appeal saying the prosecution has successfully proved the charges against the appellant.
Congress MLA Mohammed Moquim.
Congress MLA Mohammed Moquim. (File photo)

CUTTACK: In a significant judgment, the Orissa High Court on Wednesday confirmed the conviction of Congress MLA Mohammed Moquim in a loan scam involving the Orissa Rural Housing Development Corporation (ORHDC).

This could mean Moquim, his party’s automatic choice to seek re-election from the Barabati-Cuttack Assembly constituency, will now not be able to contest in the ensuing polls.

The Representation of Peoples’ Act (RPA) provides for disqualification of membership of MLAs who have been fined or convicted with punishment of more than 2 years and renders them ineligible to contest for the next six years.

On September 29, 2022, Moquim, as managing director of Metro Builders Private Limited, was convicted by the Special Vigilance Court, Bhubaneswar along with former IAS officer and MD, ORHDC Vinod Kumar and two others, in connection with a scam pertaining to housing loan for the poor. He was sentenced to three years imprisonment along with a fine of Rs 50,000.

Moquim had filed the criminal appeal challenging the propriety of the trial court’s order on the ground that it was incurably defective and suffered from gross infirmities.

However, Justice BP Routray dismissed Moquim’s appeal saying the prosecution has successfully proved the charges against the appellant. The findings of the learned trial court and the conviction are thus confirmed, the order stated. 

“Keeping in view the extent of sentence and the nature of offences as well as the role played by the appellant in committing the offences, no reason is found to interfere with the sentencing,” Justice Routray observed.

The confirmation comes nearly one and a half year after the HC issued a stay on the conviction of Moquim on October 19, 2022.

Subsequently, the State Vigilance filed a special leave petition before the Supreme Court against the HC order. The apex court, on September 22 last year, ordered the HC to dispose of the appeal within a period of six months.

According to case records, the conviction involved offence regarding availing loan of Rs 1.5 crore illegally. The offence relates to the year 2000 and at the time of commission of offence, Moquim was not in the political field but was a businessman.

Justice Routray had earlier stayed the conviction of Moquim on October 19, 2022, observing: “Admittedly, the appellant is presently continuing as a Member of the Odisha Legislative Assembly, duly elected from Barbati-Cuttack Legislative Assembly Constituency. He was elected for a term of five years and took oath on May 23, 2019. Still there is around one and half years to complete the term in normal circumstances. So, keeping in view his position as sitting MLA of Odisha Legislative Assembly, the loss to befall on him due to the conviction would be irreparable unless the same is stayed”.

Justice Routray had also allowed Moquim to continue on bail on furnishing bail bond of Rs 1 lakh with two sureties.

Timeline

Sept 29, 2022: Special Judge, Vigilance, Bhubaneswar convicts Mohammed Moquim and others

Moquim challenges his conviction, seeking a stay on conviction till conclusion of the appeal

Oct 19, 2022: HC stays the conviction pending appeal, finding this to be an exception case to stay the order of conviction

Vigilance files SLP before the SC

Sept 22, 2023: SC orders the HC to dispose of the appeal within a period of six months from the date of order

April 10, 2024: HC dismissing the appeal filed by Moquim, confirms the conviction order passed by the Vigilance court

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