Tribune News Service
New Delhi, January 28
Terming the suspension of 12 BJP MLAs from Maharashtra Legislative Assembly for a year as worse than “expulsion”, the Supreme Court on Friday declared it unconstitutional and arbitrary.
“Suffice it to observe that one-year suspension is worse than “expulsion”, “disqualification” or “resignation” — insofar as the right of the constituency to be represented before the House/Assembly is concerned,” a three-judge Bench led by Justice AM Khanwilkar ruled.
The Bench -- which had on January 19 reserved its verdict on a petition filed by the BJP MLAs challenging their suspension said, “In that, long suspension is bound to affect the rights harsher than expulsion wherein a midterm election is held within the specified time in terms of Section 151A of the 1951 (Representation of People) Act, not later than six months. Thus, the impugned resolution is unreasonable, irrational, and arbitrary and liable to be set aside.”
Allowing the petitions of BJP MLAs, the Bench said, “…the petitioners are entitled for all consequential benefits of being members of the Legislative Assembly, on and after the expiry of the period of the remainder of the concerned Session in July 2021.”
It declared that the impugned resolution directing suspension of the BJP MLAs beyond the period of the remainder of the concerned Monsoon Session held in July 2021 “is non est in the eyes of law, nullity, unconstitutional, substantively illegal and irrational. The impugned resolution is, thus, declared to be ineffective in law, insofar as the period beyond the remainder of the stated Session in which the resolution came to be passed.”
Twelve BJP MLAs were suspended from the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly for a year after the State Government accused them of misbehaving with Presiding Officer Bhaskar Jadhav in the Speaker's chamber on the first day of the monsoon session on July 5, 2021.
The suspended BJP MLAs are Dr. Sanjay Kute, Ashish Shelar, Abhimanyu Pawar, Girish Mahajan, Atul Bhatkhalkar, Harish Pimple, Jaikumar Rawal, Yogesh Sagar, Narayan Kuche, Bunty Bhangdiya, Parag Alvani and Ram Satpute.
The top court said, “It would also impact the democratic setup as a whole by permitting the thin majority Government (coalition Government) of the day to manipulate the numbers of the Opposition Party in the House in an undemocratic manner.
“Not only that, the Opposition will not be able to effectively participate in the discussion/debate in the House owing to the constant fear of its members being suspended for a longer period. There would be no purposeful or meaningful debates but one in terrorem and as per the whims of the majority. That would not be healthy for democracy as a whole,” it added.
Maintaining that “suspension is essentially a disciplinary measure”, the top court said, “It must follow that suspension for a period of one year would assume the character of punitive and punishment worse than expulsion. For, suspension for a long period and beyond the Session has the effect of creating a de facto vacancy though not a de jure vacancy.”
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