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SC negates ’03 BSP split in UP
13 MLAs disqualified
S.S. Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, February 14
In a setback to the Mulayam Singh government in Uttar Pradesh, the Supreme Court today refused to recognise Assembly Speaker’s order upholding the split in the Bahujan Samaj Party in August, 2003, which led to the formation of his ministry, and disqualified 13 of the BSP MLAs who had initially come out of it.

Deciding a complex issue of four-phase defection in the BSP, triggered by 13 of its MLAs leaving the party on August 26, 2003, a five-judge Constitution Bench said on the face of the BSP having a strength of 109 members in the House, 13 legislators defecting the party was not a split and therefore they were liable to be disqualified under the provision of Paragraph 3 of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution.

Since 24 BSP MLAs had joined the 13 10 days later i.e. on September 6, adding the number to 37 required to constitute one-third under the then prevalent anti-defection law, the court said the necessary consequence of this would be that their joining the earlier group “could not establish a split in the original (BSP) political party as having taken place on August 26”.

The 13 BSP MLAs, led by Rajendra Singh Rana, had met the Governor on August 27, pledging their support to Mulayam Singh Yadav to help him form the government after the fall of Mayawati’s ministry. The 13 legislators were disqualified by the Bench comprising Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Justices H.K. Sema, A.R. Lakshmanan, P.K. Balasubramanyan and D.K. Jain by a unanimous decision because the then Speaker Kesri Nath Tripati, now UP BJP president, had simply sat over an application of the BSP demanding disqualification of the defecting members and instead decided on the applications of the group on formation of new party Loktantrik Bahujan Dal (LBD) and its merger with Mulayam’s SP.

“In fact even a split involving the 37 MLAs on August 26, 2003 is not established,” the court said, clarifying that when the 13 legislators met the Governor on August 27, they had not informed him that there was split in the party, as was required under Paragraph 16 of the Tenth Schedule.

“Therein, there is no claim that there was a split in the Legislature Party on August 26, 2003 as was put forward in the representation on September 6 by the 37 members (including 13),” the court observed.

The court said even after the 13 MLAs had switched loyalty, the 24, who made up the 37-member group later, continued to occupy their seats alongside the BSP in the House when it assembled after six days on September 2.

More over, neither any notice of a meeting of BSP legislature party on August 26, 2003 nor any evidence of announcement of such a meeting, nor any agenda of such meeting was produced that would indicate any split in the party, the court held.

“These relevant aspects clearly demonstrate that the story of split in the original (BSP) party put forward in the letter of September 6, 2003 was only an afterthought,” the court ruled.

On Speaker’s order recognising the group of 37 MLAs as separate political entity, LBD, the court said no material was placed before it even regarding the formation of the new party.

The court said the act of splitting MLAs to give letter to the Governor extending their support to SP leader Mulayam Singh “itself would amount to an act of voluntarily giving up the membership of the (BSP) party on whose ticket the members were elected”.

On the question whether the 24 MLAs who joined the 13 later would also be automatically disqualified, the court said since they had continued to sit with the BSP for next 10 days, “it would show that there had been no split on August 27 as claimed”.

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