New Delhi: Posing tough questions, the Supreme Court today refused to quash a bailable warrant issued against controversial Uttar Pradesh minister Azam Khan in a Jal Nigam case and directed him to appear before Allahabad High Court tomorrow.
The apex court, which rebuked the Samajwadi Party's minority face for "hoodwinking" the high court, also expressed surprise that the bailable warrant could not be served on a serving minister of the state cabinet.
Khan earlier in the day moved the top court against the bailable warrant issued by the Allahabad High Court after he failed to appear before it in a case related to the state Jal Nigam, which he heads.
"Where is the chairman (Khan) of UP Jal Nigam? Is he in Allahabad or Lucknow," asked an angry bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar.
Khan's counsel, with some hesitation to inform about his whereabouts, said "he will appear whenever he is asked".
At this, the bench asked "doesn't he have a helicopter?"
Again, advocates' appearing for Khan showed some hesitation to respond to the query.
The top court said "the (high) court feels you (Khan) are hoodwinking it. It is asking you to appear but you are not appearing. You are such a person that no bailable warrant can be served upon you. He is only an ex-officio chairman (of the UP Jal Nigam)."
When Khan's counsel pointed out that he was also a minister and would comply with the high court's order after completion of Assembly elections on March 11, the bench shot back, saying "see how much time you have already been given".
Counting of votes will be taken up on March 11.
The high court had sought his personal appearance on March 1 and 6.
"You have not gone to the court. Bailable warrant was issued, even then you did not appear. You are a chairman but the bailable warrant was not served upon you. You have never gone to the court. You go and tell the high court whatever you want to explain."
"There is no reason for you not to go. There is no reason for you not to be served with the bailable warrant. There is also no reason for you that you did not attend the high court.
You are a minister but even then the warrant was not served upon you," the bench, also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and Sanjay Kishan Kaul, said in an oral observation.
The hard-hitting remarks against Khan came a day before the final round of the ongoing assembly polls in the state.
"We are of the considered view that explanation sought by the high court has to be tendered with. In view of the unequivocal and unqualified submission of the petitioner that he would surrender to the jurisdiction of the high court and tender the explanation as sought for by the high court, we dispose of this application.
"We consider it just and appropriate by directing Khan to appear before the high court tomorrow at 2 PM. We hope that the high court will allow an appropriate opportunity to Khan to tender such explanation and it will pass an appropriate order as per the law," the bench said.
Khan enjoys considerable clout in the ruling party in the state as he holds high-profile portfolios ranging from Parliamentary Affairs and Urban Development to Minority Welfare and Haj in the Akhilesh Yadav government.
The top court refused to interfere with the orders of the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court and said the reason for being pre-occupied with electioneering was not substantiated as "there is no indication that he had meetings on those days".