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Goa Congress leader seeks Supreme Court to decide disqualification plea against MLAs

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New Delhi, Jan 04: Goa Congress leader on Monday urged the Supreme Court to direct the state's Assembly Speaker to decide his plea seeking disqualification of 10 MLAs of his party who had joined BJP in July, 2019. A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde told senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Girish Chodankar, that it will take up the plea in the second week of February.

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The disqualification petition with the Speaker was filed in August 2019 and one-and-half year has gone by and a decision has still not been taken on it, Sibal told the bench which also comprised Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.

In a hearing conducted via video conferencing, he urged the apex court to ask the Speaker to decide the plea. Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for some of the MLAs whose disqualification has been sought, said a reply to Chodankar's plea has already been filed and it can now be fixed for the hearing.

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The top court had earlier fixed the plea for hearing in August last year. Prior to this, it had sought responses from the Speaker's office as well as the 10 MLAs on the plea Chodankar, the then Goa Pradesh Congress Committee chief. He later resigned from the post. Chodankar has sought directions to restrain the 10 MLAs from participating in Assembly proceedings during pendency of the disqualification petition.

The plea has also sought the apex court's direction to restrain three MLAs -- Chandrakant Kavalekar, Jennifer Monserrate and Filipe Rodrigues -- from functioning as ministers in Goa during the pendency of disqualification petition. Chodankar has alleged in his plea that in July 2019 the 10 MLAs, claiming to constitute two-third of the Congress in the Assembly, "decided to merge the said legislature party with the BJP" and communicated that to the Speaker.

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The Speaker took note of the "alleged merger of INC's (Indian National Congress) legislative party in the Goa legislative Assembly, and allotted these ten MLA's seats in the Assembly along with the members of the BJP", the plea said.

It said that nine out of these 10 had contested as Congress candidates and were elected MLAs in the 2017 Assembly elections, while one was elected MLA in the 2019 Assembly bye-election. Chodankar said he had filed the disqualification petition on August 8, 2019 before the Speaker and had contended that these MLAs "had ex-facie incurred disqualification under Article 191(2) of the Constitution, read with para 2 of the Tenth Schedule, and are liable to be disqualified as member of the Legislative Assembly".

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    The petitioner has said the matter was heard on February 13, 2020 but he has neither received any communication from the office of Speaker nor has he been intimated of any order being passed on the disqualification petition.

    Referring to an apex court judgement, the plea said the Speaker is required to decide a petition of this nature "within a reasonable period of time, and in any case, absent exceptional circumstances, within a period of 3 months".

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