Kiran Choudhary’s hopes dashed
Chandigarh, June 25
The MLAs who lost their membership are Mr Karan Singh Dalal and Mr Jagjit Singh Sangwan (both Congress) and Mr Jai Prakash Gupta, Mr Bhim Sen Mehta, Mr Rajinder Singh Bisla and Mr Dev Raj Diwan, all Independents. Never in the legislative history of the state have so many MLAs been disqualified on the allegation of defection on one day.
With the disqualification of six MLAs, the hopes of the Congress to see its candidate, Mrs Kiran Choudhary, in the Rajya Sabha from the state have been dashed to the ground. The Speaker’s decision has also ensured the victory of Mr Tarlochan Singh, Chairman of the National Minorities Commission, in the Rajya Sabha elections to be held on June 28. His candidature has been sponsored by the BJP, the
INLD, the BSP and three Independent MLAs.
The strength of the House has also been reduced to 80. Now a Rajya Sabha candidate needs 27 first-preference votes to be elected. The INLD has a strength of 47. The BJP has six members. The lone BSP member and three Independent MLAs also support the ruling party. The strength of the Congress-HVP combine, which has sponsored the candidature of the Mrs Choudhary, has been reduced to 19. However, it is also supported by four Independent members. The combine is thus short of four MLAs to ensure the success of Mrs Choudhary.
Mr Dalal and Mr Sangwan were elected on the RPI and NCP ticket, respectively. Last year they “split” their parties and formed the Haryana Republican Party and the Democratic Congress Party of Haryana, respectively. After the Election Commission of India registered their new parties, they merged them with the Congress.
The INLD MLA from Naggal, Mr Jasbir Mallour, petitioned to the Speaker on December 31 last that the two MLAs should be disqualified for having “voluntarily given up the membership of their original parties” under the anti-defection law.
Mr Dalal and Mr Sangwan contended that they had formed new parties after a split in their original parties. Their new parties later merged with the Congress. This, they said, was covered by exceptions to the disqualification under the anti-defection law. During the hearing Mr Dalal also placed on record a letter from the national President of the RPI, Mr R.S. Gavai, saying that Mr Dalal had split the party and that he had no objection to the split.
Mr Kadian based his decision to disqualify Mr Dalal and Mr Sangwan on a view expressed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in a case — “Ram Bilas Sharma versus the Speaker, Haryana”. The court had held that “in the absence of a split in the original political party, no member of that political party can claim to form a separate legislature party. A legislature party is not a separate entity. It is only a wing within the original political party.” The court had accepted the plea of Mr Sharma and disqualified Mr K.L. Sharma, who had left the BJP to join the Congress.
In the case of Independent MLAs, the Speaker relied on the media reports which stated that the MLAs had joined the Congress on June 14, 2004. Next day the INLD MLA from Bahadurgarh, Mr Nafe Singh Rathee, had filed petitions to seek their disqualification. Along with copies of the print media reports, Mr Rathee later on also submitted CDs of news bulletins telecast by certain TV channels.
Mr Kadian said that “in view of the irrefutable and overwhelming documentary and electronic evidence..., no other conclusion is possible than the fact that on June 14, 2004, all above-named six Independent members of the Haryana Vidhan Sabha joined the Congress.” Hence, the disqualification.
Interestingly, while the Speaker wrote in his judgements with regard to four Independent MLAs that all six had joined the Congress, he did not issue notices to Mr Mula Ram (Narnaul) and Mr Daryao Singh (Jhajjar) against whom similar petitions have also been filed by Mr Rathee. Mr Kadian said the petitions against them were “still under consideration”.
To blunt the charges of irregularities in the proceedings levelled by Mr Hawa Singh Hooda, Mr M.L. Saggar and Mr Hardip Bisla, advocates for the disqualifed MLAs, the Speaker extensively quoted from Article 212 of the Constitution which bars the courts from inquiring into the proceedings of the legislature. It will be for the courts to decide whether the quasi-judicial proceedings undertaken by a Speaker under the anti-defection law can be considered to be the proceedings of the lagislature.
The courts will also have to decide to what extent the Evidence Act and other court procedures are to be followed in the proceedings launched under the anti-defection law.
In 1991 the then Speaker, Mr H.S. Chatha, had disqualified three MLAs — Mr Azmat Khan, Rao Ram Narain and Mr Vasdev Sharma. When Mr K.L. Sharma quit the BJP to join the Congress, the then Speaker, Mr Ishwar Singh, recognised the “split” in the BJP. However, the Punjab and Haryana High Court reversed the Speaker’s decision and disqualified Mr Sharma from the membership of the House under the anti-defection law.
The INLD launched disqualification proceedings against Mr Charan Dass Shorewala and Mr Vinod Marya, who had quit the INLD to join the HVP. When the Speaker rejected the petition of the INLD, the party went to the High Court, which again overruled the Speaker. But by the time the court ruling came, the political situation changed in the state. The HVP Government fell. Mr Om Prakash Chautala became the Chief Minister. Mr Shorewala and Mr Marya rejoined the INLD. The apex court stayed the operation of the High Court judgement.