Himachal Speaker's Prestige At Stake In 6 MLAs' Disqualification Case

Himachal Speaker's Prestige At Stake In 6 MLAs' Disqualification Case

According to constitutional experts, three political scenarios will emerge from the current imbroglio which will be relevant to SC verdict.

KS TomarUpdated: Saturday, March 16, 2024, 07:52 PM IST
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Himachal government’s survival will depend upon the verdict of Supreme Court which is poised to decide a crucial constitutional point on Monday about the time limit which should be given to aggrieved party by speaker while deciding the disqualification case under Anti defection law?

Keeping in view the tendency of some speakers of state assemblies in India to inordinately delay to decide the cases pertaining to Anti defection law obviously to help the ruling dispensations, Himachal Vidhan Sabha speaker, Kuldeep Singh Pathania’s quick verdict to disqualify Six Congress MLAs, for abstaining during the voting on cut motion on 2024-25 annual budget has put his prestige at stake as Supreme court will give its verdict thereby putting the controversy to rest.

According to constitutional experts, three political scenarios will emerge from the current imbroglio which will be relevant to SC verdict.

First, if the apex court decides to uphold the ruling of Himachal speaker to disqualify six MLAs then strength of Congress will be reduced to 34 and BJP (25) along with independents (3) will be stuck at 28 which means majority for the government in the house of 62.

Second, if SC rejects the speaker's decision then BJP and independents will get support of these six MLAs also thereby reducing the Sukhu government to minority status as both groups will have 34 MLAs each. In case there is trust vote then the speaker can not avail an opportunity to cast vote which is possible only if tie exists i.e. 33 each in this case.

Third, in case, the disqualified MLAs do not get relief then it will not make difference to them as election commission has declared six seats vacant and by polls will be held along with Lok Sabha elections. Himachal has got one day polling on June 1st and these ex MLAs will try their luck on BJP tickets to re-enter state assembly.  BJP high command has reportedly assured these EX MLAs party tickets hence saffron party leaders  claimed that the victory of these defectors is certain as Modi ‘Charisma’ and high popularity will help them to win their seats by a big margins. Second, they say that Sukhu government’s one year lackluster performance will also become handy to convince the voters. Experts say that then destabilization game may come into force with vengeance and outcome can be easily predicted. 

Pathania, a law graduate, gave his 30 page judgment on Feb 29, 2024 following the complaint filed by parliamentary affairs minister, Harshvardhan Singh Chauhan against these legislators for intentionally violating the party whip during voting on cut motion which warranted disqualification under 10th schedule of the Indian constitution. They had also indulged in cross voting during Rajya Sabha polling on Feb 27 but party whip under Representation of People Act, 1951 –Conduct of Election Rules 1961-does not apply in this case .But 10th schedule becomes operative if party whip is violated which was enacted in 1985 by the then Rajiv Gandhi government to check horse trading by any party.

The Speaker has quoted relevant paragraphs from the anti-defection bill and justified his decision to deliver the verdict within 48 hours to avert the chances of horse trading which was the spirit of the law and democracy. But lawyers of respondents (Ex MLAs) have taken plea in the apex court that sufficient time of 7 days was not given which is against the existing law. The speaker, however, made it clear that the sufficient time was given to aggrieved parties and complainant has quoted the several SC verdicts to prove that it is not mandatory to give one week which should be guided by gravity of the circumstances and chances of horse trading. MLAs of ruling and opposition participated in budget discussion and subsequently one of the cut motions had been put to vote which was passed by the voice vote and disqualified legislators remained absent.

The experts opine that the Supreme Court verdict will have direct bearing on the longevity of Sukhu government besides becoming a guiding principle for other speakers in the country.

(Writer is political analyst based in Shimla)   

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