Congress MP Mohd Azharuddin was on Wednesday, slapped a cost of Rs 15 lakh by a Delhi court for showing "utter disdain" to it by not appearing before court in a cheque bounce case and "wasting its time."
Metropolitan Magistrate (MM) Vikrant Vaid, who had earlier issued non-bailable warrants (NBWs) against the cricketer-turned-politician for his failure to appear before him in the case, imposed the cost after being informed that Azharuddin had amicably arrived at an out-of-court settlement.
"If settlement had to be done, it could have been done on the first date itself," the court said while taking strict view on the conduct of the Lok Sabha MP from Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh.
"As the accused (Azharuddin) showed utter disdain to the court and wasted its time and did not appear (before it) for this reason, I do not find any reason why the court should not impose the cost," the judge said.
The court also imposed a penalty of Rs 1 lakh on one of his friend, who had earlier submitted a bond and surety to ensure Azharuddin's appearance in the case, but failed to do so.
The complainant Sanjay Solanki, a Delhi-based businessman, had earlier alleged that Azhar wanted to sell his Mumbai-based property worth around Rs 4.5 crore, jointly owned by him and his wife.
He approached Azhar to purchase the property and the deal was finalised after which Solanki paid Rs 1.5 crore in advance to Azhar but after some time, due to some marital dispute, Azhar refused to sell the property and agreed to pay back the money to Solanki but his cheques issued to Solanki were dishonoured.
As the hearing of the case began, the counsel for Azharuddin as well as the complainant informed the court that they had amicably settled the dispute for an "undisclosed amount".
The judge while imposing the cost, referred to a Supreme Court judgement which held that a magistrate has discretion to impose a cost of 10 per cent of the amount of bounced cheque, if he was satisfied that the accused had wasted court's time.
The court ordered Azharuddin to deposit the amount with the Delhi Legal Services Authority within one months time.
The judge also allowed the plea of advocate Firoz Khan Gazi and Gazanfar Ali Khan, who appeared for Azharuddin, for cancellation of non-bailable warrants earlier issued by court.
The court had earlier given ten dates for hearing between January 19 to March 3 and had also imposed a cost of Rs 20 thousand twice on Azharuddin for his non-appearance.
His counsel had sought exemption from personal appearance in the case contending that Azharuddin was busy in poll campaigning for the UP assembly elections.
They said Azharuddin was not avoiding appearance before the court deliberately as he had not volunteered to be in the list of campaigners which was prepared by the Congress party.
"Azharuddin is the star campaigner of the Indian National Congress party, which is already notified to the Election Commission also and is still under command to perform and participate in the said campaign, which makes the applicant as one of the essential persons in the entire process," his counsel had said.
The magistrate had, however, said the court has nothing to do with the fact that Azharrudin was the star campaigner of his party and had issued non bailable warrants against him.
"This (being the star campaigner) is between you and the party. The court has nothing to do with it," the court had said dismissing his plea for personal exemption.
The magistrate had said that Azharuddin was "deliberately" avoiding appearance in the case.