Tuesday, June 20, 2000,
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Disqualification of Akali MLAs
Badalís comments sought
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, June 19 - The Punjab Vidhan Sabha Speaker, Mr Charanjit Singh Atwal, hearing the disqualification case of 11 Akali MLAs , today asked the Shiromani Akali Dal President, Mr Parkash Sing Badal, to submit his written comments by June 21, the next date of hearing.

The SAD President could even authorise someone else to file the comments "in the interest of the justice" , the Speaker ruled.

Continuing with the case filed before him by four ministers, Mr Raghbir Singh, Mr Sikandar Singh Maluka, Mr Jagdish Singh Garcha,(against 10 MLAs) and Mr Ajaib Singh Mukhmailpur and Mr Ajit Singh Kohar(against one MLA ) , the petitioners filed their replications today.

After hearing the lawyers from both sides the Speaker said on June 21 issues will be framed and rejoinders, if any, filed . A majority of the respondent MLAs were present. Since the beginning of the case a former Speaker , Mr Ravi Inder Singh, has not appeared in person, but only through his lawyers . The petioners were present.

It may be mentioned that all 11 MLAs stand expelled from the SAD on whose ticket and symbol they had contested the Assembly elections in February 1997. The petitioners have moved the Speaker seeking their disqualification as members of the Vidhan Sabha since they had voluntarily quit.

The 12-page replication filed by the petitioners , inter alia , has denied almost all points put forward in the written replies filed by the respondent MLAs before the Speaker on May 5 . In only one or two places the replication partly admits some of the arguments. The main argument appears to be that all MLAs had quit the SAD voluntarily. Some of the dates on which political affairs committee of the party had met mentioned by the respondents have also been denied.

At some places the replication has raised the point in the manner in which allegations were levelled against the Speaker himself since he is a member of the political affairs committee. The conduct of the MLAs whose disqualification is being sought has been questioned both inside and outside the Vidhan Sabha. The point repeatedly made out being that all had close links with Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, who was finally expelled from the primary membership of the party on June 14, 1999. All the 10 MLAs were involved in his new political outfit, the Sarab- Hind Shiromani Akali Dal. All criticised their parent party despite having contested on its symbol.

The replication of Mr Ravi Inder Singh was submitted separately.

The 10 MLAs facing disqualification are Mr Manjit Singh Calcutta, Mr Inderjit Singh Zira, Mr Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal, Mr S.S.Kohli ,Mr Harmel Singh Tohra - all former ministers, who had resigned on December 13, 1998.

The others are Mr Hira Singh Gabria, Mr Jagtar Singh Rajla, Mr Bikramjit Singh Khalsa, Mr Gurdev Singh Sidhu and Mrs Daljit Kaur.

They were expelled from the SAD for their anti-party activities on two different dates, January 16, and June 13, 2000 . On the later date even Mr Ravi Inder Singh was expelled. He was under suspension for several months . 
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