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Supreme Court allows 6 Haryana MLAs to function without voting rights

Tuesday 29 June 2004, by VENKATESAN*J.

NEW DELHI, JUNE 28. The Supreme Court today declined to permit the six disqualified Haryana MLAs to vote in the election held today for two Rajya Sabha seats from the State. They were, however, allowed to continue to function as MLAs.

A vacation Bench, comprising Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice P. Venkatarama Reddi, passed the interim order admitting a batch of petitions from the MLAs challenging the Assembly Speaker, Satbir Singh Kadiyan’s June 25 order disqualifying them on the ground that they had joined the Congress.

The Bench said the MLAs would remain as members of the House without voting rights till their petition was disposed of. They would be entitled to participate in the House proceedings and draw all allowances and other perquisites but shall not cast their votes, including in today’s Rajya Sabha polls. The Bench allowed the petitioners to mention it before the Chief Justice of India for early hearing of the matter.

The six legislators are: Karan Singh Dalal of the Republican Party of India; Jagjit Singh of the Nationalist Congress Party and four independents - Bhimsain Mehta, Rajender Singh Disla, Devraj Deewan and Jai Prakash Gupta.

The Speaker disqualified them on a complaint filed by two Indian National Lok Dal MLAs alleging that they had joined the Congress and thereby incurred the disqualification under the recently amended anti-defection law.

Earlier, appearing for the MLAs, the former Attorney-General, Soli Sorabjee, contended that the Speaker had passed the order without giving them an opportunity to rebut the allegation that they had joined the Congress and without allowing them to cross-examine the complainants.

Even though the six MLAs had categorically denied having joined the Congress, the Speaker relied on interviews telecast by the electronic media in which they reportedly said that they had joined the Congress. The Speaker’s conduct, Mr. Sorabjee alleged, was partisan and the order of disqualification was based on his predetermined notion and in blatant breach of principles of natural justice.

Senior counsel A.M. Singhvi, appearing for one of the MLAs, Karan Singh Dalal, said he was not given an opportunity to prove that the split in the RPI, of which he was the sole legislator, was genuine and therefore, was covered under the anti-defection law. Senior counsel Gopal Subramaniam, appearing for the independent MLAs, said the procedure adopted by the Speaker in passing the impugned order was questionable.

Senior counsel Shanti Bhushan, appearing for the Haryana Government, said no court could interfere with the election process once it had begun.

The only remedy was to challenge the election through a petition. Three private television channels had telecast the MLAs’ announcement that they had joined the Congress and the Speaker was therefore justified in disqualifying them.

J. Venkatesan

See online : The Hindu

P.S.

in The Hindu, Tuesday, June 29, 2004.

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