Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan was sentenced to three years in jail today by a court that held him guilty of hate speech targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in 2019.
Azam Khan, 74, was granted bail and a week to appeal the sentence. “I have not lost faith. Not all doors have closed – I will appeal before a higher court,” said the Samajwadi Party MLA.
Azam Khan faces disqualification as an MLA if he doesn’t challenge the sentence immediately before the High Court. The Uttar Pradesh assembly can also move quickly to disqualify him, as is the rule when any lawmaker is sentenced to more than two years in jail.
Earlier today, Azam Khan was convicted for his provocative speech against PM Modi, Yogi Adityanath and IAS officer Aunjaneya Kumar Singh, then District magistrate, during the general election campaign in 2019. He was also fined ₹ 25,000 by the court in Rampur, Uttar Pradesh.
The Samajwadi leader had accused the Prime Minister of creating an atmosphere in the country in which Muslims found it difficult to exist.
Azam Khan is seen as the number two leader in Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party, with a strong following in Rampur and other parts of western Uttar Pradesh.
The veteran leader was released from jail in May after the Supreme Court granted him interim bail.
He spent nearly two years in jail in a land-grabbing case.
The Samajwadi leader faces 87 cases, with charges ranging from corruption and theft to land grab, filed since the BJP took power in Uttar Pradesh in 2017.
Azam Khan’s conviction comes a week after the Supreme Court asked the Centre and the Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand governments to act tough on hate speeches, warning that any delay in taking action would invite the court’s contempt.