“I have not lost faith. Not all doors have closed. I will appeal before a higher court,” Azam said after the special court’s sentence. Accompanied by his son Abdullah Azam (also an MLA), the 74-year-old leader later approached the sessions court.
The Rampur MLA, who was found guilty, had surrendered before the court on Thursday morning. He was later granted bail and a week’s time to appeal the sentence.
Azam may now lose his house membership, as per a landmark Supreme Court judgment, dated July 10, 2013, that says if any MLA, MLC or MP is convicted in a criminal case and gets jail of minimum two years then he/she loses membership of the house with immediate effect. The UP assembly can also move quickly to disqualify him.
On April 9, 2019, a case was registered against Azam at Milak Kotwali in Rampur for giving a provocative speech against CM Yogi Adityanath, other top BJP leaders and IAS officer Aunjaneya Kumar Singh, the then DM. The issue was first raised by advocate Akash Saxena, a BJP member.
Azam was booked under IPC sections 153-A (promoting enmity), 505-1 (public mischief) along with section 125 of the Representation of People Act 1951.
After Thursday’s sentence, Saxena told TOI: “Truth always prevails. Apart from prosecuting counsel, I had deployed my counsel Sandeep Saxena to give all possible support in the trial proceedings. Azam is now filing an appeal but I’m sure he won’t get relief. There is recorded video evidence verified by the court. We are looking forward to the election commission for action against him.”
In-charge of the prosecution cell, advocate SP Pandey said, “This is a case of hate speech. The court found him guilty. He has been sentenced to three years. He later got bail as per the provision under section 437 of CrPC, which says ‘bail can be granted by the same court if conviction is not more than three years’.”
Notably, Azam has been charged in over 90 cases of “extortion, criminal conspiracy and theft”. He was arrested in 2020 and had been in jail for 27 months. The veteran leader was released earlier this year after the SC granted him interim bail.