SC suspends Moquim’s sentence, but he can’t contest upcoming polls

Moquim cannot contest the upcoming elections as the apex court did not grant a stay on his conviction in the ORHDC loan irregularities case.
Cuttack-Barabati MLA Mohammed Moquim
Cuttack-Barabati MLA Mohammed Moquim Photo | Express

BHUBANESWAR: The Supreme Court on Tuesday suspended the sentence of imprisonment of senior Congress leader and Cuttack-Barabati MLA Mohammed Moquim in the Odisha Rural Housing and Development Corporation Limited (ORHDC) loan irregularities case.

However, Moquim cannot contest the upcoming elections as the apex court did not grant a stay on his conviction in the case.

The Orissa High Court on April 10 had dismissed the appeal of Moquim challenging the order of a vigilance court which sentenced him to three years imprisonment and fine of `50,000 in the case. Special judge, Vigilance, Bhubaneswar, on September 29, 2022, had convicted him in the corruption case.

Moquim had filed a special leave petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court. A bench of Justice Surya Kant and Justice Dipankar Datta issued notice to the Odisha government on the SLP filed by the Cuttack-Barabati MLA challenging the Orissa High Court’s decision.

“Issue notice. Post the matter for hearing. Having heard the senior counsel for the parties and taking into consideration all the attending circumstances, the sentence of the petitioner is ordered to be suspended subject to his bail bonds,” the bench added.

Meanwhile, the Vigilance department issued a statement saying Moquim, as the managing director of Metro Builders Pvt Ltd in collusion with an IAS officer and others obtained a pecuniary advantage in favour of the real estate firm in the guise of loans meant for rural poor from the state-run Odisha Rural Housing and Development Corporation Ltd (ORHDC).

Pitambar Acharya, the counsel for Moquim, said that their line of argument was that none of the documents were forged. 

There is no culpability and involvement of the petitioner in commission of the offence, he said. Senior lawyers Mukul Rohatgi and S Murlidhar also appeared for Moquim.

Moquim told this paper that the stay on the sentence was a big relief. The Congress leader said that he will decide on the future course of action relating to the ensuing election after consulting his supporters.

In the 2019 Assembly election, Moquim had defeated BJD leader Debasish Samantray from the Cuttack-Barabati seat. The Congress is yet to announce its candidate for the seat. The party was hopeful of a favourable decision by the Supreme Court which would allow Moquim to contest, but now it will have to look for alternatives, sources said.

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