11 Jan 2022 10:49 AM GMT
The Supreme Court on Tuesday expressed an inclination to interfere with the resolution passed on July 5, 2021, by the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly to suspend 12 BJP MLAs for one year for alleged misbehaviour, as the term of suspension was beyond the permissible limits.A bench comprising Justice AM Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari observed that the suspension for one year was "worse...
The Supreme Court on Tuesday expressed an inclination to interfere with the resolution passed on July 5, 2021, by the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly to suspend 12 BJP MLAs for one year for alleged misbehaviour, as the term of suspension was beyond the permissible limits.
A bench comprising Justice AM Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari observed that the suspension for one year was "worse than expulsion" as the constituency is remaining unrepresented. If there is expulsion, there is a mechanism to fill up the vacancy. The suspension for one year will amount to a punishment on the constituency, the bench observed.
The bench pointed out that as per the relevant rules, the Assembly has no power to suspend a member beyond 60 days. In this regard, the bench referred to Article 190(4) of the Constitution which says that a seat will be deemed to have become vacant if a member remains absent in the House without its permission for a period of 60 dayss.
"This decision is worse than expulsion. No one can represent these constituencies in the House when they are not there...This is not punishing the member but punishing the constituency as a whole", Justice Khanwilkar observed.
The bench pointed out that as per Constitutional provisions, a constituency cannot go unrepresented for a period beyond 6 months. Saying so, the bench refused to accept the argument of Senior Advocate C Aryama Sundaram for the State of Maharashtra that the Court cannot examine the quantum of punishment imposed by a legislative assembly.
After the bench expressed these views, Sundaram sought time to take instructions from the State. The hearing has been accordingly adjourned till next Tuesday, January 18.
The bench said that it will not go into other aspects except the quantum of punishment.
"...we can say that the decision to suspension can only operate till 6 months and later than that it will be hit by a constitutional bar", Justice Khanwilkar told Sundaram.
Senior Advocates Mahesh Jethmalani, Mukul Rohatgi, Neeraj Kishan Kaul and Siddharth Bhatnagar had led arguments for the suspended legislators.
Jethmalani pointed out that recently when the Rajya Sabha suspended 12 MLAs for disorderly behaviour, it operated only for the duration of the session. The rights of the constituency are also to be protected. Rohatgi argued that the principles of natural justice were violated by the House. The petitioners' lawyers argued that the Court has the jurisdiction to examine the correctness of the punishment imposed by the House.
Bhatnagar raised the argument that the suspension cannot exceed 6 months. "If seats are allowed to be vacant then it has a major effect on the democracy. This is worse than expulsion", he submitted adding that this can allow the government to manipulate the strength in the house to secure majority votes in crucial issues.
Click Here To Read/Download Order