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32 U.P. MLAs told to sit as separate group

Saturday 25 March 2006, by VENKATESAN*J.

Supreme Court restrains Speaker

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday asked 32 of the 37 MLAs in Uttar Pradesh, who had merged with the Samajwadi Party, to sit as a separate group of MLAs of the Loktantrik Bahujan Dal (LBD) till the court disposed of the matter.

A Bench of Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice P.P. Naolekar passed this interim order on a batch of special leave petitions against a judgment of the Allahabad High Court quashing the orders passed the Assembly Speaker declining disqualification; recognising split as well as merger. The Bench also restrained the Speaker from passing orders on the applications pending before him pursuant to the High Court directions.

The Bench permitted 32 MLAs of the breakaway group to exist as an independent group as per the order of the Speaker, dated September 6, 2003, to preserve their political status in the Assembly. The judges also allowed five of the 37 MLAs, who had resigned from the Ministry and the post of chairmen of various boards subsequent to the High Court order, to function as Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MLAs. Considering the fact that important issues were involved in these appeals, the Bench referred the matter to the Chief Justice for posting them before a larger Bench for an urgent hearing.

Whip from two parties

Earlier, counsel for petitioners Harish Salve sought stay of the impugned judgment on the ground that if a stay was not granted, the petitioners would have to face a whip from two parties, as they would be neither in the BSP nor in the Samajwadi party. He said in the alternative the Speaker should be restrained from passing any order on the basis of the directions issued by the High Court.

Senior counsel K. K. Venugopal, appearing for the BSP, opposed the stay and said that pursuant to the High Court judgment, all the 37 MLAs should be treated as BSP MLAs. He said the Speaker had bungled in deciding the issue whether the provisions of the anti-defection law covered the members of the breakaway group or not.

"Deliberate delay"

He argued that initially the strength of the breakaway group was only 13, and the BSP filed a petition before the Speaker seeking their disqualification but he deliberately kept the entire issue pending till their strength went up to 37. Thereafter, he passed the two orders recognising the breakaway group as LBD and also their merger with the SP same day.

See online : The Hindu

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