SC Suspends Odisha Congress MLA Md Moquim’s Sentence In Loan Fraud Case

OB Bureau

New Delhi/Cuttack: The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to stay the conviction of Cuttack-Barabati MLA Mohammed  Moquim in the decade-old loan irregularities case. 

After hearing both sides, the court, however, suspended his sentence till disposal of the special leave application (SPL).

“Issue notice. Standing counsel accepts notice on behalf of the State….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 of Justices Surya Kant and Dipankar Datta said.

The legislator had suffered a setback earlier this month after the Orissa High Court upheld the verdict of a special vigilance court that sentenced him to three-year imprisonment in the case, scotching his prospects of contesting in the ensuing elections.

He then challenged the order in the SC. However, it is still not clear whether he will be able to contest the polls in Odisha.

On September 29, 2022, Moquim, then managing director of Metro Builders Pvt Ltd, former IAS officer Vinod Kumar and others were convicted by a vigilance court for obtaining pecuniary advantage in favour of the former company in guide of loans meant for rural poor from Odisha Rural Housing and Development Corporation Ltd (ORHDC).

In October 2022, following an appeal from the Congress legislator, the HC stayed his conviction, describing it as “an exceptional case” and allowed him to continue as member of the state assembly. Moquim had challenged the propriety of the trial court’s order on the grounds that it was incurably defective and suffered from gross infirmities.

Hearing a SPL filed by the Vigilance, the Supreme Court on September 22, 2023, ordered the HC to dispose off the appeal within a period of 6 months from the date of order.

On April 10, the HC said that there are sufficient evidences available on record against Moquim on his role in getting the loan sanctioned in favour of the company. “In addition to this, the loan was sanctioned on the security of the personal guarantee, indemnity and assurance of Moquim. It is further indicated from the evidences that he along with other co-accused persons have intentionally and knowingly used series of forged documents to get the loan sanctioned in favour of accused company without any justification. It is true that mere inability to repay the loan amount would not give rise to criminal prosecution. But here in the present case, fraudulent and dishonest intention of Moquim as the MD of Metro Builders has been established through prosecution evidence to show his intention to get the loan sanctioned and such conduct of Moquim from the very date of application for loan is clear on record to satisfy the existence of mens rea on his part,” the HC said in its order.

While the Cuttack-Barabati MLA as the MD of Metro Builders had availed a loan of Rs 1.5 crore in 2000, the unpaid amount in 2007 had mounted to more than Rs 6 crore.

Notably, Moquim had managed to win the Cuttack-Barabati seat by defeating BJD’s Debashish Samantaray because of his organisational strength in 2019 Assembly elections when Congress faced drubbing and could bag on only 9 of the 147 seats.

The Congress is yet to announce candidate for this seat, which will go to polls on May 25.

OB Bureau

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