The Supreme Court today pulled up the TN Assembly Speaker for delay in taking cognizance of the pleas to disqualify OPS and 10 other AIADMK MLAs

Approach of Art.136 Cannot Be Adopted While Deciding Petitions by The High Court Under Art.227: SC

The Supreme Court questioned the Tamilnadu Assembly Speaker for delay in taking cognizance of disqualification pleas against OPS and 10 other AIADMK MLAs for voting against the Party Chief Instructions during 2017 Trust Vote session. The Hon’ble High Court of Madras dismissed the case as it would result in Judicial Overreach. Now the case lies before the Hon’ble Apex Court and the Court questioned the speaker for the delay of 3 years and considered it to be unnecessary.

Calling the three-year delay in the disqualification proceedings “unnecessary”, Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, who was hearing the matter with Justices BR Gavai and Surya Kant of Supreme Court pulled up the Tamil Nadu Assembly Speaker for delay in taking cognizance of the pleas to disqualify O Panneerselvam (OPS) and 10 other AIADMK MLAs for voting contrary to the Chief Whip’s directions during a trust vote held in February 2017.

Prior Facts:

In April 2018, a Division Bench of the Madras High Court had dismissed petitions filed protesting the Speaker’s apparent reluctance to disqualify OPS and the 10 other MLAs for their rebellion against the E Palanaswami led Government in February 2017. A Bench of then Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Abdul Quddhose had held that to direct the Speaker to act against the 11 MLAs would amount to judicial overreach.

The 11 MLAs include O Panneerselvam, now the state’s deputy chief minister who had rebelled against the AIADMK in 2017 against the decision to make VK Sasikala the party general secretary. The two factions – one led by Chief Minister E Palaniswami and the other by Panneerselvam – merged in August 2017, after which Panneerselvam became the deputy chief minister.

Key Features:

  • The petition, moved by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, alleged inaction by the Assembly speaker to a call for disqualification for voting against the AIADMK government during a trust vote in February 2017.
  • Senior Counsel Kapil Sibal, representing the DMK party, pointed out before the Court that a recent judgement delivered by a Bench headed by Justice Rohinton Nariman had held that petitions concerning the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution (anti-defection law) ought to be decided by the Speaker within a reasonable period of time and setting the limit to three months.
  • Senior Counsel Mukul Rohatgi, representing OPS and the disqualified MLAs, opposed Sibal’s submission to say that Justice Nariman’s judgment was rendered only recently. Therefore, the Speaker of Tamil Nadu could not have been reprimanded based on the same.
  • Rohatgi also sought to point out “infirmities” in the judgment. However, the same was not entertained by the Court.
  • During a hearing on January 24, DMK referred to the top court verdict in the Manipur minister case in which the court said Parliament should “rethink” whether the Speaker of a House should continue to have powers to disqualify law makers as such a functionary “belongs to a particular political party”.

Judgment:

The Court proceeded to seek the Speaker’s explanation over the inaction on these disqualification pleas.A Supreme Court bench led by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde noted the submission. “Tell us whether you are going to take action. If yes, then when and how,” the bench said. The matter will be taken up again on February 14. Bobde described the three-year delay in initiating the disqualification proceedings against the MLAs as “unnecessary. The court, however, clarified that it was not going to intervene in the Speaker’s jurisdiction. Chief Justice noted that, “of course, there is nothing we can do about the Speaker deciding to do it [take cognizance of the anti-defection pleas] or not. But we must take cognizance if he keeps them pending. Why did you not take cognisance for three years?”The bench then fixed the plea for hearing on February 14 when the state government will have to respond.

Edited by J. Madonna Jephi

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje

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Vaibhav Goyal is a 3rd year BA.LLB (H) student of UILS, Panjab University, Chandigarh, India. He also basically belongs to the “City Beautiful-Chandigarh”. He had interned and have work experience at various Central and State Government bodies of India including the National Human Rights Commission, New Delhi; the Central Information Commission, New Delhi; U.T. Legal Services Authority, Chandigarh, etc. His research projects includes the study on the Right to Emergency Services (PSHRC), Resettlement of Migrant People (NHRC), Implications of RTI in Financial Institutions (CIC), etc. His publications involve articles in different fields of law like administrative, jurisprudence, etc. on online journals including the Juscholars Blog, Burnished Law Journal, etc. His research paper on Prison Reform was published in the Panjab University Journal and his paper was selected in category of best abstract on the topic of Naxalism: A State of Lawlessness and Arbitrariness. He had scored well in various competitions of law consisting of Quiz, Essay Writing, Lecture, Declamation, etc. He had also participated in various conferences including the World Law Forum Conference on Strategic Lawsuits on Public Participation held in New Delhi on Oct 20, 2018 and the National Law Conclave 2020 held at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi on Jan 11, 2020.