The Supreme Court will on Friday hear the disqualification petition against 10 MLAs who defected from the Congress to the ruling Bhartiya Janta Party.
The hearing, which was scheduled to August 7 by an order dated June 16, wherein a bench of Chief Justice SA Bobde, Justices AS Bopanna & MR Shah had issued "early notice" returnable within four weeks, to Speaker Rajesh Patnekar and the 10 MLAs, some of whom are ministers on the plea filed by Mr. Girish Chodankar, Goa Congress President.
It has been now scheduled to be heard on Friday, July 24 following a request by the petitioner, State Congress president Girish Chodankar.
Advocate Sahil Tagotra, representing the petitioner, in an application to the Registrar, Supreme Court, on July 16, had requested that the matter be listed for hearing on or before July 20.
The letter seeking urgent listing of his case "Girish Chodankar v. The Speaker, Goa State Legislative Assembly" on July 16 stated that a delay in the listing of the case was "in direct violation of the judgement of the Court in Keisham Meghachandra Singh V. Hon'ble Speaker, Manipur Legislative Assembly."
Thus, the letter read,
"Keeping in mind the aforesaid delay and urgency in mind, this Hon'ble Court had itself directed the matter to be listed after four weeks. Since the main issue in the Writ petition itself concerns inordinate delay by the Respondent No. 1, any additional delay in listing of the matter, despite specific directions of the Hon'ble Court to list the same, will irreversibly prejudice the Petitioner's case, and cause a loss to the public exchequer"
The petitioner is seeking the Court's directions to the Speaker to dispose of the disqualification petition filed in August 2019 within one month.
It additionally seeks restraining the 10 defected MLA's to BJP from officiating as MLA's and Ministers.
On the last date, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal appeared on behalf of Chodankar and sought early listing of the case.
The plea contends that the Speaker has violated the deadline of 3 months to decide disqualification which has been set by the Supreme Court in its recent ruling pertaining to the Manipur MLA Defection issue.
In July 2019, ten of the 15 congress MLA's in Goa quit the party and merged with BJP, thereby increasing the strength of the ruling party to 40 from 27.
The disqualification petition filed against the 10 MLAs by the opposition party is pending before Assembly Speaker Rajesh Patnekar since August 2019.
Chodankar's plea challenges the merger of the Congress group comprising 10 MLAs with the BJP as there was no "split" in the party or its Goa unit.
The petition also relies on observations of the Supreme Court which said Parliament should "rethink" whether the Speaker of a House should continue to have powers to disqualify lawmakers as such a functionary "belongs to a particular political party".
"It is time that Parliament have a rethink on whether disqualification petitions ought to be entrusted to a Speaker as a quasi-judicial authority when such Speaker continues to belong to a particular political party either de jure or de facto. Parliament may seriously consider amending the Constitution to substitute the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and Legislative Assemblies as arbiter of disputes concerning disqualification which arise under the Tenth Schedule with a permanent Tribunal headed by a retired Supreme Court Judge or a retired Chief Justice of a High Court, or some other outside independent mechanism to ensure that such disputes are decided both swiftly and impartially, thus giving real teeth to the provisions contained in the Tenth Schedule, which are so vital in the proper functioning of our democracy" - Supreme Court
On February 13, Goa Assembly Speaker Rajesh Patnekar heard the disqualification petition filed by the Congress and lawyers of the 10 (defected) MLA's sought time to file their replies.
Notably, on July 21, the Supreme Court had issued notice to the Speaker of Goa Legislative Assembly on a plea filed by Maharashtrawadi Gowantak Party (MGP) Leader Sudin Dhavalikar, seeking issuance of directions to the Speaker to decide disqualification petition filed against 2 defected MGP MLA's, pending since May 5, 2019 and tagged it with Chodankar's plea.