The Manipur High Court on Monday barred 7 MLAs, who had switched from Congress to BJP, from entering the Manipur Legislative Assembly until the Speaker takes a final decision on the applications filed way back in 2018 seeking their disqualification on the ground of defection.
The MLAs who faced the Court's action are Sanasam Bira Singh, Gisuanhau, Oinam Lukhoi Singh, Ngamthang Haokip, Yengkhom Surchandra Singh, Kshetrimayum Bira Singh and Paonam Brojen Singh, who had won the 2017 State Assembly elections on Congress ticket.
A bench of Justice K H Nobin Singh followed the recent direction passed by the Supreme Court, whereby legislator Thounaojam Shyamkumar - who become a minister after switching over to BJP- was restrained from entering the assembly pending decision on application seeking his disqualification on the ground of defection. That order was passed by the SC after noting that the Speaker had failed to abide by the time limit earlier fixed by it in January.
After the SC intervention, the Speaker disqualified Thounaojam Shyamkumar him under the tenth schedule of the Constitution.
Speaker Should Decide On Disqualification Within 3 Months; Impartial Tribunal Needed Under 10th Schedule : SC [Read Judgment]
Commenting on the Speaker's inaction on the applications, the High Court observed
"The Hon'ble Speaker acting as the Tribunal, ought to act fairly and reasonably but he has utterly failed to do so. The Hon'ble Speaker appears to have no respect for the provisions of the Constitution of India including Article 14 which strikes at the root of arbitrariness, malafide etc. and the decisions of the Honb'le Court as well."
"The Hon'ble Speaker is solely responsible for it. It is the Hon'ble Speaker who has attracted the attention of the Court on account of his failure to discharge his duties in accordance with law", the Court added
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Observing that the circumstances in this present case were identical to the Thounaojam Shyamkumar's case, the High Court said that it also has powers to interfere under Article 226 of the Constitution where the Speaker fails to decide on applications for disqualification within a reasonable period of time
"When a Speaker refrains from deciding a petition within a reasonable time, there was clearly an error which attracted jurisdiction of the High Court in exercise of the power of judicial review", the Court observed
"Being a Tribunal, the Hon'ble Speaker ought to have applied his mind taking into account the urgency and importance of the issue involved herein in view of the outer limit fixed by the Hon'ble Supreme Court, when a period of more than one and half year had already lapsed from the date of filing the petitions.", it added.
The Court also stressed that the assembly had only 2 years left for the end of term and added that it was important that disqualification petitions are decided as soon as possible to avoid loss to the public exchequer.
"In such an eventuality, the question that arises, is as to to what will happen to the salary already drawn by the MLA from the day on which the reasonable time has lapsed and if not recovered from him, it will insure a loss to public exchequer. In order to prevent such an eventuality, the petition for disqualification needs to be decided by the Speaker at the earliest possible or within three months as has now been fixed by the Hon'ble Supreme Court", it court observed.
Senior Advocates Kapil Sibal, SG Hasnain and N Ibotimbi appeared for the petitioners in the case. Senior Advocate HS Paonam and Advocate Kh Tarunkumar appeared for the respondents.
Click here to download Order