SC quashes 1-year suspension of 12 BJP MLAs from Maharashtra Assembly, says it is "worse" than expulsion
Quashing the one-year suspension of 12 BJP MLAs by the Maharashtra Assembly, the Supreme Court on Friday said it is “worse'' than expulsion or disqualification, observing that such action beyond the remainder period of an ongoing session would impact the democratic setup.
Holding that the Assembly resolution for the suspension beyond the period prescribed under the stated Rule is ''substantively illegal, irrational and unconstitutional,” the top court cautioned this could allow a government of the day with a thin majority to manipulate the numbers of the Opposition party in an “undemocratic manner”. It also said the rule deals with the procedure to be adopted for passing the “drastic order” of withdrawal of a member.
In its 90-page judgement on the petitions filed by the 12 BJP MLAs who had challenged their one-year suspension from the Legislative Assembly for allegedly misbehaving with the presiding officer during the Monsoon session in July 2021, a bench headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar said more importantly the constituency would remain unrepresented in the Assembly.
The BJP hailed the verdict as a victory of truth and a ''tight slap'' on the face of the Shiv Sena-led government in Maharashtra.
“In conclusion, we have no hesitation in allowing the writ petitions and to declare that the impugned resolution directing suspension of the petitioners beyond the period of the remainder of the concerned Monsoon session held in July 2021 is non est in the eyes of law, nullity, unconstitutional, substantively illegal and irrational,” said the three-judge bench, also comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and C T Ravikumar.
At the same time, the apex court said Parliament and State Legislative Assembly are regarded as “sacred places” and there can be no place for disorderly conduct in the House, where members are expected to show ''statesmanship and not brinkmanship”.
The court said the happenings in the House are a reflection of the contemporary societal fabric and it has become common to hear that the House could not complete its usual scheduled business and most of the time had been spent in “jeering and personal attacks” instead of erudite constructive and educative debates.
“This is the popular sentiment gaining ground amongst the common man. It is disheartening for the observers.'' It said that for becoming world leaders and self-dependent or reliant, quality of debates in the House ought to be of the highest order and directed towards intrinsic Constitutional and native issues confronting the common man.
“In any case, there can be no place for disorderly conduct in the House much less ‘grossly disorderly’,” it said. “Such conduct must be dealt with sternly for ensuring orderly functioning of the House. But, that action must be Constitutional, legal, rational and as per the procedure established by law.” Senior BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis, a former Maharashtra chief minister, said the verdict is ''another tight slap'' on the face of the Shiv Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in the state.
''Satyameva Jayate'', the Leader of Opposition in the Assembly said, as he alleged that the MVA government, in which NCP and Congress also share power, was indulging in ''unconstitutional, unethical, unfair, illegal and undemocratic actions''. BJP president J P Nadda said the verdict is a victory of truth.
The NCP said the decision to suspend the 12 BJP members was taken by the then presiding officer of the House and not by the state government, while ally Shiv Sena expressed surprise over the top court ''going soft'' on the legislators despite their ''misbehaviour''.
Apart from Ashish Shelar, the BJP's chief whip in the Assembly, Sanjay Kute, Abhimanyu Pawar, Girish Mahajan, Atul Bhatkhalkar, Parag Alavani, Harish Pimpale, Yogesh Sagar, Jay Kumar Rawal, Narayan Kuche, Ram Satpute and Bunty Bhangdia were the suspended members.
They were suspended for one year on July 5 last after the state government had accused them of misbehaving with presiding officer Bhaskar Jadhav in the Speaker's chamber.
In its verdict, the top court declared the Assembly resolution to be “ineffective in law”, insofar as the period beyond the remainder of the stated session in which the resolution came to be passed.
It said the 12 MLAs are entitled to all consequential benefits of being the members of the Assembly, on and after the expiry of the period of remainder of the session concerned.
The apex court said suspension beyond the remainder period of the ongoing session would be violative of “basic democratic values” owing to the unessential deprivation of the member concerned.
“Suffice it to observe that one year suspension is worse than ‘expulsion’, ‘disqualification’ or ‘resignation’ - insofar as the right of the constituency to be represented before the House/Assembly is concerned.” The bench said that in absence of any express provision bestowing power in the Legislature to suspend its members beyond the term of ongoing session, the inherent power of the Legislature can be invoked only to the extent necessary and for proper exercise of the functions of the House at the relevant point of time.
The apex court, which referred to Rule 53 of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Rules that deals with power to order withdrawal of member, said this rule not only speaks about the procedure to be adopted for passing the “drastic order” of withdrawal of a member but also about the substantive disciplinary or rationality of self-security measure to be taken in a graded manner.
“The non-compliance of or deviation from the former (procedure) may be non-justiciable. However, in regard to the substantive disciplinary or the rationality of the self-security measure inflicted upon the erring member, it is open to judicial review on the touchstone of being unconstitutional, grossly illegal and irrational or arbitrary,” the bench observed.
The court noted that if it is a case of grossly disorderly behaviour in the House, the speaker/chairman himself is free to take instantaneous decision to order withdrawal of the member from the meetings of Assembly during the remainder of the day’s meeting and if it is a case of repeat misconduct in the same session - for the remainder of the session.
“A priori, if the resolution passed by the House was to provide for suspension beyond the period prescribed under the stated Rule, it would be substantively illegal, irrational and unconstitutional.'' The bench said the suspension beyond the remainder period of the ongoing session would also “impact the democratic setup as a whole by permitting the thin majority government (coalition government) of the day to manipulate the numbers of the Opposition party in the House in an undemocratic manner.” It said the Opposition will not be able to effectively participate in the discussion in the House owing to the constant fear of its members being suspended for longer period.
“There would be no purposeful or meaningful debates but one in terrorem and as per the whims of the majority. That would not be healthy for the democracy as a whole.'' The court observed that it is in public domain, through print, electronic and social media, that members of Parliament or Assembly or Council of the State, spend much of the time in a “hostile atmosphere” and Parliament and Legislative Assembly are becoming more and more “intransigent place”.PTI ABA ND SPK GSN
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)