“Worse Than Expulsion”: Supreme Court On Maharashtra BJP MLAs’ Suspension

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The Supreme Court Tuesday said suspension from Legislative Assembly for one year is “worse” than expulsion as the consequences are so dreadful and the right of a constituency to remain represented in the House is affected.

The top court, which was hearing the pleas filed by 12 BJP MLAs who have challenged their one-year suspension from Maharashtra Legislative Assembly for allegedly misbehaving with the presiding officer, observed that there is statutory obligation to fill in a seat within six months.

“You can’t create a constitutional void, a hiatus situation for the constituency. And it is one constituency or 12 constituencies, it makes no difference. Each constituency has equal amount of right to be represented in the House,” a bench headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar said.

The bench, also comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and C T Ravikumar, observed the House has power to suspend a member but not for a period of beyond 59 days.

The top court observed that senior advocate Siddharth Bhatnagar, who appeared for petitioners in one of the pleas, have argued this point that this suspension is worse than expulsion.

The bench observed that it is inflicted with punishment and it is not punishing the member, but the constituency as a whole.

“…we will accept the arguments of Mr Bhatnagar that this decision is worse than expulsion. This suspension for one year is worse than expulsion. The consequences are so dreadful,” it said.

The bench referred to Article 190 (4) of the Constitution which says that if for a period of 60 days, a member of a House, without its permission, is absent from all meeting, the House may declare his or her seat vacant.

“In the facts of the present case, we will say enough is enough in two pages. We don’t have to elaborate much about this case,” the bench observed.

The counsel appearing for the state said that he would discuss the issue and come back to the court.

“What we may say, we have not yet finally taken that view. We may say we will record the contention of both sides. We will say our deliberation would only be on the limited aspect that all said and done, this is any case could not have been done and this period is over and therefore, the decision is ineffective in law, unconstitutional beyond this day. This is all what we may say for all practical and legal purposes,” the bench orally observed.

The top court had posted the matter for further hearing on January 18.

The bench also referred to the arguments advanced by the counsel appearing for these MLAs who said in this way, members from the House might be suspended and this in turn would affect the strength.

The top court observed that it would set a “dangerous precedent” for the democratic set up.

“This will be very dangerous for the democratic set and complete democratic value will be compromised,” it said, adding, in this case there are 12 members and there can be a case where is the number could be 120 also.

The counsel appearing for the 12 MLAs argued that the assembly had acted without jurisdiction in suspending them for one year.

On December 14 last year, the top court had sought responses from the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly and the state government on the pleas filed by these 12 BJP MLAs.

The top court had observed that issues raised in the matter and arguments advanced by the advocates appearing for the petitioners as well as the state are “debatable” and “require deeper consideration”.

These 12 BJP MLAs have filed petitions challenging the resolution passed by the Assembly to suspend them for one year.

These MLAs were suspended on July 5 last year from the Assembly after the state government had accused them of “misbehaving” with presiding officer Bhaskar Jadhav in the Speaker’s chamber.

The 12 suspended members are Sanjay Kute, Ashish Shelar, Abhimanyu Pawar, Girish Mahajan, Atul Bhatkhalkar, Parag Alavani, Harish Pimpale, Yogesh Sagar, Jay Kumar Rawat, Narayan Kuche, Ram Satpute and Bunty Bhangdia.

The motion to suspend these MLAs was moved by state Parliamentary Affairs Minister Anil Parab and passed by a voice vote.

Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis had termed the allegation as false, and said Mr Jadhav’s account of the incident was “one-sided”.

“This is a false allegation and an attempt to reduce the numbers of opposition benches, because we exposed the government’s falsehood on the OBC quota in local bodies,” Mr Fadnavis had said, adding that BJP members had not abused the presiding officer.

However, Mr Jadhav had sought a probe into the allegation that some Shiv Sena members and he himself made uncharitable remarks, and said he was ready to face any punishment if it was proven true.

“Abusive words were directed at me. Some people are saying I made uncharitable remarks. Let there be a probe into it after checking the CCTV footage. If I have used any inappropriate language, I am ready to face any punishment,” Mr Jadhav had said.

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