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Why should court assume Speaker's power to disqualify MLAs under anti-defection law: SC

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Press Trust of India New Delhi
The Supreme Court Tuesday wondered as to why courts should venture into the question of disqualification of MLAs for defection when the Constitution has conferred this power to the Assembly speaker.
"When the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution confers the power of disqualification on the speaker, then why should the court assume this power?," said a bench comprising Justices S A Bobde, R Subhash Reddy and B R Gavai.
The bench made this comment while hearing an appeal filed by DMK leader R Sakkarapani challenging the April 2018 Madras High Court verdict dismissing his plea seeking disqualification of 11 AIADMK MLAs, including Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam.
The Tenth schedule of the Constitution deals with disqualification of members of the House on the ground of defection.
Senior counsel Kapil Sibal, appearing for the petitioner, said if Assembly speaker will not decide on disqualification of an MLA, the court should decide it.
"Assuming that the speaker will not decide on disqualification for five years, will the court become powerless?," Sibal told the bench.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the speaker, raised a preliminary objection on the petition and said that Sakkarapani's only prayer in the high court was to issue a direction to the speaker to decide on disqualification of these MLAs.
He said that later, the only prayer was "given up" after the apex court asked the high court not to decide this issue.
Sibal said that amendment application was filed by the petitioner in the high court following the apex court's order.
He said the amended prayer requesting the high court to disqualify the legislators was dealt with and a verdict was delivered on merits in the matter.
Sibal said the appeal should be decided by the apex court.
"We are a little taken aback with the way this matter has proceeded," the bench observed and posted the matter for hearing on August 20.
The high court had rejected the petition citing pendency of a plea in the apex court on the powers of a court to issue directions to the Speaker of a state Assembly.
The petitioner had sought disqualification of Panneerselvam and 10 others for having voted against the K Palaniswami government last year when they were in the rebel camp.
The petitioner had contended in the high court that by voting against the trust motion, these MLAs had violated the whip issued by ruling party and hence attracted disqualification under the anti-defection law.

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First Published: Jul 30 2019 | 8:21 PM IST

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