Maharashtra political crisis: SC refers 2016 verdict on speaker’s role to a larger bench

New Delhi: Even the principles laid down in the judgment of a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court in 2016 did not affect the outcome of the Maharashtra political crisis case, a constitution bench said on Thursday, calling a larger bench to settle the “dispute” and “substantial”. Needed Questions of law involved in preventing a Speaker from deciding disqualification petitions under the anti-defection law” when seeking his own removal.

A bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dhananjay Y Chandrachud said that the Supreme Court’s June 2022 order restraining the then deputy speaker from adjudicating the disqualification petitions against Eknath Shinde and the legislators supporting him was “violation of natural justice”. based on principles”. The Shinde faction has sought more time to file its reply to the notice.

However, the Bench, also comprising Justices MR Shah, Krishna Murari, Hima Kohli and PS Narasimha, observed that in view of the facts of the present case and the submissions placed before it with regard to the 2016 judgment in Nebam Rabia (Arunachal Pradesh Disqualification) ) case, the 2016 five-judge bench’s decision “deserves reference to a larger bench as a substantial question of law remains to be settled”.

The Nebam Rabia judgment laid down the legal proposition to prevent the Speaker from exercising his power to decide disqualification petitions filed against members of the House under the Tenth Schedule (anti-defection law).

But, according to the bench, the previous Constitution Bench judgment failed to consider two important aspects.

“One, whether the temporary incapacitation of the functions of the Speaker under the Tenth Schedule is prone to be misused by MLAs who anticipate that disqualification petitions will be filed against them or by MLAs against whom disqualification petitions have already been instituted are,” the court said in its decision.

Two, the bench said, “whether there is a constitutional gap in the operation of the Tenth Schedule due to the temporary incapacity of the Speaker.”

At the same time, the CJI-led bench underlined that the 2016 judgment did not consider another judgment delivered by a constitution bench in the Kihoto Holohan case (1992), which clearly sought to cast doubt on the independence and impartiality of the Speaker. No reason when deciding proceedings under the Tenth Schedule. The court said, “On the contrary, in Nabam Rebia, this Court doubted the ability of the Speaker to remain neutral while deciding disqualification petitions after a notice was issued with intent to issue a motion for the removal of the Speaker.”

Further, Article 181 of the Constitution provides that the Speaker shall not preside over a meeting of the Legislative Assembly only when a motion for his removal is under consideration and thus, the bench said, was not considered in the 2016 judgment whether there could be an addition. reason for disqualification of the Speaker

To put the issue to rest, the court said, it is referring the principal issue along with any allied issues that may come up before a seven-judge bench during future proceedings. “Whether issuing a notice of intent to move a resolution for the removal of the Speaker debars him from deciding disqualification petitions under the Tenth Schedule to the Constitution,” the bench asked while framing the main issue for an official announcement by the larger bench. underlined.

The issue of the inerrancy of the 2016 judgment came up before a CJI-led bench in August 2022 after a smaller bench doubted its correctness. “We may prima facie see that the proposition of law laid down by the Constitution Bench in Nebam Rebia stands on a contradictory logic, which needs to be filled in the gap to uphold constitutional morality. Thus, it is necessary to hold that the question The exercise of filling the gap requires a reference to a constitution bench,” said the August order by then Chief Justice N V Ramana and Justices Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli.

Since the bench headed by the CJI was also the bench with coordinating power, judicial decency required the legal dispute arising out of the 2016 judgment to be referred to a bench of more than five judges.