Issue of suspension of MLAs: The question of law and constitution before the Supreme Court

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has said that the suspension of 12 BJP MLAs from the Maharashtra Assembly for one year is prima facie unconstitutional, and “worse than expulsion”.

The court said on Tuesday that a “constitutional void” and “gap situation” has been created in these constituencies, and “the consequences are dire”.

What was the petition in the Supreme Court?
On July 5, 2021, soon after the assembly met for a two-day monsoon session, Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis (BJP) created a ruckus objecting to an attempt by state minister Chhagan Bhujbal (NCP) to move a resolution. Center releases data on Other Backward Classes (OBCs) to reserve seats for them in local bodies in Maharashtra.

In protest, several BJP MLAs entered the well, snatched the mace and uprooted the mike. Shiv Sena MLA Bhaskar Jadhav, who was in the chair, adjourned the House for 10 minutes after which some BJP MLAs allegedly entered his chamber and threatened, abused and abused him.

The Maharashtra Sadan has not had a speaker since the resignation of Congress’ Nana Patole in February 2021, and Jadhav was one of the four presiding officers nominated by caretaker Speaker Narhari Jirwal the previous day. Data on OBC population is a political hot button, and the Center has told the Supreme Court that data on OBCs collected during the 2011 Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) is incorrect and unusable.

Maharashtra Parliamentary Affairs Minister Anil Parab later sent 12 BJP MLAs – Sanjay Kute, Ashish Shelar, Abhimanyu Pawar, Girish Mahajan, Atul Bhatkalkar, Parag Alwani, Harish Pimple, Yogesh Sagar, Jaykumar Rawal, Narayan Kuche, Ram Satpute and Bunty. motion to suspend. Bhangadiya – For a year.

The legislators filed a writ petition against the Maharashtra Assembly and the state of Maharashtra in the Supreme Court last year, seeking quashing of the suspension.

What is the logic of suspended MLAs?
The petition said his suspension was “extremely arbitrary and disproportionate”. The challenge rests mainly on the grounds of denial of principles of natural justice and violation of due process.

The 12 MLAs have said that they were not given an opportunity to present their case and the suspension violated their fundamental right to equality before the law under Article 14 of the Constitution. He has also said that he was not given access to video of the proceedings of the House, and it was not clear how he was identified among the large crowd that had gathered in the chamber.

The legislators have also argued that under Rule 53 of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Rules, the power to suspend can be exercised only by the Speaker, and cannot be put to vote in a motion as in this case. it was done.

Rule 53 states that “the Speaker may direct any member who refuses to comply with his decision, or whose conduct, in his opinion, is wholly disorderly, to withdraw from the Assembly forthwith”. . The member has to “absent himself during the remainder of the day’s meeting”.

If a member is ordered to withdraw for the second time in the same session, the Speaker may direct the member to remain absent “for any period not exceeding the remainder of the session”.

What has Maharashtra said in its defence?
A counter-affidavit filed by the secretary-in-charge of the state’s parliamentary affairs department pointed to the “indisciplined and indecent behavior” of the 12 MLAs, and the fact that the leader of the opposition had tendered an apology. The affidavit said, therefore, there was no question of hearing or giving written explanation by the contemptuous MLAs of the House. It denies any violation of Article 14.

Maharashtra’s counsel argued that the House had acted within its legislative competence, and that under Article 212, courts are not empowered to inquire into the proceedings of the legislature.

Article 212(1) states that “the validity of any proceeding in the Legislature of a State shall not be called in question on the ground of any alleged irregularity of procedure”.

The next sub-section says, “Any officer or member of the Legislature … in whom powers are vested by or under this Constitution for the conduct of process or business in the Legislature or for the maintenance of order, subject to the jurisdiction of any court No. Respect for the use of those powers by him.”

The state also referred to Article 194 on the powers and privileges of the House, and argued that any member who contravenes these privileges can be suspended through the inherent powers of the House.

It has denied that the power to suspend a member can be exercised only through Rule 53 of the Legislative Assembly.