Patna, Jan 6: In a blow to JD(U), the Patna High Court today set aside Bihar Assembly Speaker's November order terminating the membership of four rebel MLAs under anti- defection law after the ruling party had sought action against them over alleged cross-voting in Rajya Sabha polls.
The MLAs are Gyanendra Singh Gyanu (Barh), Neeraj Kumar Bablu (Chhatapur), Rahul Sharma (Ghoshi) and Ravindra Rai (Mahua). Speaker Uday Narayan Chaudhary had disqualified them on grounds of anti-party activities and 'voluntary surrender of membership'. "Defection and dissent were not synonyms," Justice J P Sharan said setting aside Chaudhary's order.
In the 57-page verdict, the High Court differentiated between 'defection' and 'dissent' and said that the activities of the four petitioners did not amount to voluntary surrender of membership. Pointing out that the four petitioners had not put up any candidate against JD(U) National President Sharad Yadav during the Rajya Sabha by-election and had voted in his favour, Justice Sharan said, "Isolated act of dissent to such independence and nothing further to add on cannot amount to voluntary surrender of membership."
Their membership was terminated on November 1, 2014 by the Speaker after JD(U) had charged them with anti-party activities, particularly in the by-election to three Rajya Sabha seats in June. Four more party MLAs were disqualified last month on similar charges. The four MLAs had moved the High Court thereafter on November 3. State JD(U) President Vashistha Narayan Singh asserted that it was not a setback to JD(U) "We respect the order of the High Court.
It is not a set-back to the party," he said before meeting Nitish Kumar at his official residence. Buoyed by the verdict, the rebels MLAs said it would strengthen their fight against "autocratic leaders like Nitish Kumar" in the party. "We respect the verdict of the honourable court. It has done justice to us. It is also a tight slap on the face of JD(U) and former chief minister Nitish Kumar," Neeraj Kumar Bablu said.
Bablu said the HC order will give confidence to those MLAs and leaders in the party who are opposed to Kumar but are are silent out of fear of action against them. "The fear in their minds will be driven away by this order and they will rise against Kumar," he added.