Disqualification notice to Sachin Pilot, 18 MLAs brings issue of Speaker's power to fore
New Delhi, July 16: The issue of Speakers' power under the Constitution to entertain pleas seeking disqualification of MLAs has come to the fore again amid the political crisis in Rajasthan where the Assembly speaker has entertained such a plea by the ruling Congress party and sought responses of sacked Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot and 18 other MLAs within three days.
The apex court, in a plethora of verdicts, has given varying judicial opinions on Speakers' powers ranging from refusing to intervene in the matter to assuming the role of the Speaker itself and going to the extent of disqualifying lawmakers under the 10th Schedule of the Constitution. The 2011 verdict of the Supreme Court in the Karnataka case may strengthen the case of the 19 MLAs, including Pilot, in the matter of Rajasthan Assembly Speaker CP Joshi's show cause notice.
The top court had set aside the disqualification of 11 BJP MLAs, who were opposed to the then Chief Minister BS Yedurappa, by the Speaker. The high court had endorsed their disqualification.
"Merely because these MLAs expressed lack of confidence in Yeddyurappa would not mean that the Speaker was empowered to take action against them," a bench headed by the then Chief Justice Altamas Kabir had held.
It had then taken note of the assertion of the 11 MLAs that they were part of the BJP and would support any other leader in the party, and held this rebellion did not require action under 10th schedule (which deals Speaker's power to deal with defection) of the Constitution.
"Rajasthan Speaker's notice to Pilot and others with him is patently illegal and beyond the scope of tenth schedule of the Constitution. They have not joined or expressed a wish to join or support BJP," senior lawyer and Constitutional law expert Rakesh Dwivedi said.
"Protesting against CM and asking for change or pressuring High Command of the Congress to change CM does not amount to leaving the party," he said.
Dwivedi added there were no media reports that Pilot indulged in any anti-party activities and met leaders of rival political parties to topple the government; rather there have been reports of police probe against the Deputy Chief Minister for offences like sedition.
In the recent Karnataka crisis, the top court had said that 15 rebel Congress-JD(S) MLAs in Karnataka "ought not" to be compelled to participate in the proceedings of the ongoing session of the state Assembly and an option should be given to them as to whether they wanted to take part or stay out of it.
However, the apex court had also said that the Assembly Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar will decide on the resignation of the 15 MLAs within "such time-frame as considered appropriate by him". But, there have also been instances where the top court has assumed the role of the Speaker to itself after taking note of the delay on the part of the Speaker in deciding such pleas.