High Court upholds Goa Assembly Speaker’s order

New Delhi: The Goa Bench of the Bombay High Court on Thursday upheld the Goa Assembly Speaker’s order dismissing two petitions seeking disqualification of 12 MLAs who had joined the ruling BJP from their parties in 2019. Ten of these MLAs had left the Congress, in which the verdict was delivered. was unexpected and claimed it would encourage the BJP-led central government’s “politics to change the mandate of the people” with the use of funds.

The BJP, on the other hand, welcomed the order, saying “democracy and constitutional mandate prevailed over the defamatory campaign”.

Goa Pradesh Congress Committee president Girish Chodankar had filed a disqualification petition in the court against 10 party MLAs who joined the BJP in July 2019.

He had said that these MLAs “are eligible to be disqualified from the membership of their parent party (Congress), thereby attracting disqualification under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution.”

Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party MLA Sudin Dhavalikar had also filed a petition on the same grounds against the MLAs of his party who had joined the BJP in the same year by splitting the regional party.

Goa Assembly Speaker Rajesh Patnekar had on April 20 last year dismissed the disqualification petitions filed by Chodankar and Dhavalikar.

Senior advocate Vivek Tankha, appearing for Chodankar, had argued before the HC that the Speaker had made a mistake in interpreting paragraph four of the Tenth Schedule to the Constitution. He had argued that the Schedule contemplates a ‘double examination’ to arrive at a conclusion regarding the merger of the original political party.

On Thursday, a division bench of Justice Manish Pitale and Justice RN Laddha said that both the petitions have been dismissed. “The petitioners have not been able to make out a case for interference in the orders passed by the Speaker,” the HC said.

“We hold that the disqualification petitions filed by the petitioners were rightly dismissed by the Speaker,” the bench said.

The court also said that the order passed by the Speaker dismissing the disqualification petitions “cannot be said to be defamatory against the object of introducing the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution on the test of political and constitutional morality”.

Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant in a tweet said, “I welcome the decision of Hon. High Court dismisses appeal filed by Congress and MGP against merger of 12 MLAs into BJP Legislature Party. Democracy on smear campaign and The constitutional mandate has won.

Chodankar, however, said the order was unexpected and he would challenge it in the Supreme Court as “the very existence of political parties is in question”.

He claimed that the order gave the legislators the power to change the mandate.

“The order will encourage the politics of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre… By using the money they can change the mandate of the people,” the Congress leader told reporters outside the court building.

This order is against democratic values. He claimed, “This is going to set a bad example not only for the Congress but for all the political parties in the country, because after the election some MLAs may come together and decide to join another party.” “

“The spirit of the Tenth Schedule (of the Constitution) has been destroyed by this order. The object of the Tenth Schedule is to prevent defection and horse-trading. It is necessary that this order be challenged,” he said.

Advocate Abhijeet Gosavi, representing Chodankar, said the order raises questions on the role of political parties in the democratic process.

“It will happen that two-thirds of the members will take a definite decision and the political party will have no role in this process,” he said.

In the 2017 elections to the 40-member Goa Legislative Assembly, the Congress emerged as the single largest party, winning 17 seats. But, the BJP, which won 13 seats, allied with some regional organizations and independent candidates to form the government.

In the last five years, several Congress MLAs have left the party, reducing its strength in the House to two.

Elections to the new Goa Legislative Assembly were held on February 14 this year and the counting of votes will take place on March 10.