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Allahabad High Court directs release of Samajwadi party leader Azam Khan on interim bail

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The Allahabad High Court has directed the release of former Uttar Pradesh cabinet minister Mohammad Azam Khan on interim bail in the case of grabbing enemy property.

A Single Bench of Justice Rahul Chaturvedi passed this order while hearing a Criminal Misc Bail Application filed by Mohammad Azam Khan.

The bail application has been filed on behalf of Mohammad Azam Khan, the applicant after his second bail application was rejected by learned Special Judge (M.P./M.L.A.)/Additional Sessions Judge, Rampur order dated 4.8.2021.

The applicant Mohd Azam Khan, who deserves no introduction, at one point of time was a political heavyweight of the then ruling party of the State of U.P, presently Member of Parliament from Rampur Loksabha constituency and Chancellor of Mohammad Ali Jauhar University (established by U.P. Act No.19 of 2006), is facing a prosecution in Case u/s 420, 467, 468, 471, 447, 201, 120-B I.P.C and Section 3 of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984, Police Station-Azeem Nagar, District-Rampur. He is behind the bars in connection with aforesaid offences since 26.02.2020 and seeking bail during trial.

An FIR  has been lodged by one Allama Zamir Naqvi, a self proclaimed public spirited person, by moving an application addressed to the D.G.P, Luckow on 29.7.2019, and as such, the present F.I.R came into existence against nine named accused persons including the applicant, his wife Tanzim Fatima and son Abdullah Azam along with six others on 19.8.2019.

The Court have keenly perused the contents of the F.I.R and for the sake of brevity the bulky F.I.R is reduced to following points:

(a)The land in dispute relates to one Mr. Imamuddin Quereshi s/o late Badruddeen Qureshi, permanent resident of Lucknow. This gentleman belonged to ‘Sunni Sect’ of Muslim religion (Backward Class), Kasai/Qureshi community, who after the partition, relinquished the citizenship of India and migrated to Pakistan during 1947-49 and since then turned a citizen of Pakistan. As per the provisions of Section -8 of “The Administration of Evacuee Property Act, 1950” the property left by Imamuddin Qureshi was declared as Evacuee Property and deemed to have been vested with the ‘Custodian’ of the State, as per legal implication.

(b) The property left by Imamuddin Qureshi contains one room and an Imambara situated at Village -Singhan Khera, Pargana and Tehsil Sadar, Rampur, having pucca Raqba 86 bigha, 2 biswa and as per notification issued by the Government of India 1962 and 1971, in all 45 gatas, ad-measuring area 13.842 hectares of agricultural land got endorsed and vested with the government, as per Section 5 of Enemy Property Act, 1968.

(c) In fact, this landed property ad-measuring area 13.842 hectares situated at Village Singhan Khera, Pargana and Tehsil Sadar, District Rampur is the focal issue of the entire controversy of the present bail application.

(d) It is further alleged in the F.I.R that despite the fact that the aforesaid property in dispute i.e 13.842 hectares is under the custody of Custodian, Enemy Property, Ministry of Home, Government of India. The applicant belonging to the City of Rampur and pursuing his dream project “Mohammad Ali Jauhar University” have an evil eye over the land in dispute and in order to digest a valuable piece of land without paying any sale consideration or any authority or title recognized under the law, won over the then Chairman, Syed Waseem Rizvi who was at the relevant time adorning the chair of U.P Shia Central Waqf Board. Not only Syed Waseem Rizvi, but rest of the Board of members, namely Mazhar Ali Khan @ Bhukkal Nawab of Lucknow and other members and Inspector, have fabricated certain forged papers and documents. These members and other office bearers of Shia Central Waqf Board virtually started dancing to the tune of their political boss the Applicant and the Chairman. After hatching a conspiracy, making those forged and crafted documents have used them as a genuine one, got the aforesaid land belonging to person of Sunni Sect of Kasai community, showing him as a permanent resident of Asharfabad Deen Dayal Road, Kotwali Saadatganj, Lucknow got the property in question converted into a ‘Waqf Property’ by preparing a forged Waqf Deed, whose alleged settler was late Imamuddin Qureshi. Interestingly a person who has already migrated to Pakistan in 1947-1949, his alleged Waqf was registered as ‘I-78’ at U.P Shia Central Waqf Board, Lucknow in 2003. This by itself throws ample light on the modus operandi of applicant, who was the then Cabinet Minister and his close friend Syed Waseem Rizvi. Alleged waqf deed is nothing but a tissue of utter falsehood, a tailored document with ulterior motive and purpose just to digest that 13.842 hectares of the land left by Imamuddin Qureshi during partition days. This land was eventually encircled within the University premises, without paying a single penny as its consideration or without any authority or title over the land in question.

(e) It is further alleged in the F.I.R, that when in the year 1942 U.P Shia Central Waqf Board and Sunni Central Waqf Board were established, all waqf properties in the State were measured and identified on a district level. In this regard it was alleged that during that period Imamuddin Qureshi Trust was registered or not, is this a pivotal question? Who has had Mutwalli since its establishment? Without having any certificate applied it seems that Mohd Azam Khan misusing his powers as Cabinet Minister along with his close ally Syed Wazim Rizvi without having any inquiry managed to get said Waqf Deed of Imamuddin Qureshi registered by the then Administrative officer of Shia Central Waqf Board, Syed Gulamus Syedden, in furtherance of common intention of all. The alleged legal formalities are simply eye-wash or a hoax after grossly misusing applicant’s power and position at relevant time.

(f) It is also alleged of the F.I.R that as to who are the descendants of alleged settler Imamuddin Qureshi and whether they are residing in Lucknow or Rampur or all of them have migrated to Pakistan are not known, because as mentioned above Imamuddin belonged to Sunni Sec and as to how his trust/waqf property was registered as Shia Waqf Board. By way of repetition it has been alleged that the applicant Mohd Azam Khan after conniving with the then Chairman, Shia Central Waqf Board Syed Waseem Rizvi and other Members of Board have swindled the property in question just to benefit Azam Khan’s dream project ‘Mohammad Ali Jauhar University’ without any sale consideration or passing any title over the land. By this action the applicant and other co-accused have caused a considerable financial dent to the Government of U.P as well as Government of India in an organized way.

(g) Interestingly almost after 12 years of its alleged registration with U.P Shia Central Waqf Board on 2.4.2015 one Masood Khan was appointed as its Mutwalli in a slip short way. It is alleged that Mutwalli Masood Khan was appointed Mutwalli after 12 years of its registration, as a puppet as ‘Yes Man’ of the applicant. He requested the District Magistrate, Rampur to hand over the aforesaid property as a waqf property. In response to the same, A.D.M, Rampur its letter dated 15.4.2015 informed that the land in question ad-measuring 13.842 hectares is an Enemy Property and would remain till such time the Government of India does not release it.

(h) In this long F.I.R a direct allegation has been made against the applicant for misusing his power as a Cabinet Minister and hushing up the landed property belonging to the Custodian, Evacuee Property, Mumbai, who migrated to Pakistan during partition. In the Revenue Records of 1359 Fasli there is a clear endorsement that land belongs to Imamuddin Qureshi managed by the ‘Custodian’. Thus right from the day of partition the land is named in the custody of Custodian, Evacuee Property, Mumbai.

(i) After receiving this complaint, the Central Waqf Council Government of India, New Delhi has constituted a nine members team, headed by Syed Aizaz Naqvi, Advocate, Supreme Court Delhi, who had given a detailed inquiry report on 6.1.2017, and thus, it was prayed that 45 gatas of land belonging to Imamuddin Qureshi, who left Pakistan and accepted the citizenship of that nation, ad-measuring area 13.842 hectares of village Singhan Khera, Pargana Tehsil Rampur it has been declared as ‘Enemy Property’ after fabricating documents in a forged way with intention to cheat and play fraud, causing a huge loss to the Government of U.P as well as Government of India. It is Mohd Azam Khan, his wife Tanzim Fatima, his son Abdulla Azam, his friend Syed Waseem Rizvi and others who after concealing the material facts and forging the documents have succeeded to encircle the aforesaid land in dispute within the campus of Mohammad Ali Jauhar Ali University. Hence the F.I.R relying upon the report given by the Probe Committee.

Thus, for the purpose of the bail application the focal issue of the land is total 45 gatas ad-measuring 13.842 hectares of land situated at Village- Singhan Khera, Pargana and Tehsil Sadar, District Rampur, which has been declared as Enemy Property swindled by Mohd Azam Khan, the then Cabinet Minister of Govt. of U.P later on become Chancellor of the University named above.

Imran Ullah, Advocate appearing for the applicant raised his submissions touching the various issues:

(i) The applicant has fully cooperated with the investigation, never misused or terrorized any of the witnesses, in which after investigation the police submitted a report u/s 173(2) Cr.P.C on 27.5.2020. It is contended that the trial has yet not been commenced, thus, now no useful purpose would be served to keep the applicant behind the bars during trial. He is already facing incarceration since 26.2.2020.

(ii) After change in the establishment in the State of U.P. in the year 2017 in the State of U.P., there is a volley of criminal cases, one after the other within a span of 2-3 months. Out of 89 cases lodged against the applicant, he has attained bail in 88 cases and thus, present is the only case left for the consideration of this Court.

(iii) Since the applicant is languishing in jail since 26.2.2020 and as per the ratio laid down by the Apex Court in the case of Satendra Kumar Antil vs C.B.I reported in 2021 SCC Online SC 922 the applicant deserves to be bailed out in the present case too.

(iv) It is next contended by the counsel for the applicant that the applicant is a person of 72 years of age, though a powerful and influential political giant of the State of U.P, is in jail for almost two and half years. Last year during Covid pandemic he was nearly saved on account of Providence. He was severely sick, his cardiac and renal organs were severely adversely affected and he is still on medication. It would be indeed cruel and inhuman if he would die in harness without any proper treatment.

Per contra, M.C Chaturvedi, Additional Advocate General for the State and Sri Farman Ali Naqvi, learned Senior Advocate have spearheaded the submissions for the State of U.P. as well as for the informant.

“The Court is failing to express its view that the applicant is somewhere or the other is trying to impress upon the court that he has left no stone unturned in establishing a University to spread the quality education among the youth in the state of Uttar Pradesh especially Rohilkhand area. No doubt, the object is laudable one but it is expected from a minister who claims himself to be a visionary while establishing the University, but while going through the entire case, the Court is at loss, puzzled and wonder that to thrive his dream project in the name of Mohammad Ali Jauhar University the applicant is trading in a smug manner. It is not only the object which has to be a pious one but its means, ways and paths too should be above board and transparent. If a person of a cabinet minister uses a guileful practice or does any act in a slip short and shabby way or connive with deceitful means, then it erodes the confidence of public and the very pious object of the said dream project got spoiled and vitiated”, the Court said.

While surfing the motto to raise any educational University, the Court visited Winston Churchil’s opinion, which refers as under:

“The first duty of a University is to teach wisdom, not trade, character, not technicalities”

“Herein, it seems that the applicant in disguise of raising University is trading and usurping technicalities to grab an evacuee property by oblique means.

In the case too the applicant being a cabinet minister all powerful person dreamt to establish a University of which he was a perpetual Chancellor like a personal fiefdom and for this he went to any extent adopting all legal, illegal, fair and foul means”, the Court observed.

However, as bail is a right of any accused and jail is an exception, therefore, on humanitarian ground the Court keeping in view the applicant’s deteriorating health, old age and the period undergone in jail, is considering the application of bail be allowed by imposing following conditions.

As mentioned above, the applicant himself has distanced and delinked with the property in dispute though at present lying in the campus of University whose reference is given in paragraphs 8 (vii), 9, 10 and 11 of this judgment, the District Magistrate, Rampur being a representative of Custodian/Administrator of Evacuee/Enemy Property is directed to hold a measurement of the landed property in dispute which is center dispute of this issue admeasuring area 13.842 hectares village Singhan Khera, Pargana and Tehsil-Sadar, District Rampur and thereafter raise a boundary wall and barbed wire around it and take the actual physical possession of the property in dispute on behalf of Administrator of Evacuee Property Mumbai latest by 30.6.2022.

In this exercise the local Revenue authorities, University authorities would fully cooperate and shall not cause any hindrance or obstacle while carrying out aforesaid direction. Since the applicant Mohd Azam Khan is already in jail for almost two and half years, he shall be released on interim bail during this exercise in aforesaid case crime by furnishing a personal bond of Rs1 lac and two sureties of the like amount to the satisfaction of the court concerned. After completion of aforesaid exercise to the satisfaction of the District Magistrate, Rampur and after taking his final nod in the aforesaid drill, then only his interim bail would be converted into regular bail on the same terms and conditions and on the same bonds as furnished earlier. It is expected that the applicant would also render his desired cooperation in completing this object during his release on interim bail. The Custodian Evacuee Property Mumbai is requested to hand over the property in dispute to some para military forces for their training purposes, as already done in the year 2014.

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