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Manipur: HC restrains 7 defected Cong MLAs from entering Assembly

Manipur High Court’s order restraining 7 defected Congress MLAs to BJP from entering to Manipur Legislative Assembly till the final disposal of the pending disqualification cases against the 7 defected Congress MLAs by the Speaker in the Speaker’s Tribunal. The High Court directs the Speaker to ensure compliance of the order.

The sanctity of the office of Hon’ble Speaker of Manipur Legislative Assembly has been put in a poor light, which has created a dark history in the constitutional history of Manipur Legislative Assembly. Keisham Meghachandra Hon’ble MLA of Wangkhem AC

As has been observed hereinabove, the facts and circumstances of the present cases(7 mlas) are almost identical with that of Shri K. Meghachandra Singh (supra). In the present cases, the petitions were filed before the Speaker on 08-11-2018 and were not decided by him within a
reasonable time as mandated in Article 14 of the Constitution of India.

The meaning of the expression “reasonable time” was considered by the Hon’ble Supreme Court which was of the opinion that it would depend on the facts of each case but it could mean a period of four months in the context of disqualification of a member of the Legislative Assembly except the exceptional circumstances for which there is good reason. Despite the outer limit having been fixed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court for disposal of the petition for disqualification, the Hon’ble Speaker did not bother at all. Being the Tribunal, the Hon’ble Speaker ought to have applied his mind taking into account the urgency and importance of the issue involved herein in view of the outer limit fixed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court, when
a period of more than one and half year had already lapsed from the date of filing the petitions. The whole controversy has, in fact, arisen due to the failure on the part of the Speaker to decide the petitions within a reasonable time. Had any decision been taken by the Speaker on the petitions within a reasonable time, the controversy could have been obviated at the right time and undesirable interference by the Court would not have arisen at all.

The Hon’ble Speaker can be said to be solely responsible for it. It is the Hon’ble Speaker who has attracted the attention of the Court on account of his failure to discharge his duties in accordance with law. The main allegation made in the petitions, in short, is that the private respondents have voluntarily given up their membership, for which.they are liable to be disqualified under the provisions of the Tenth Schedule for being a member of the Manipur Legislative Assembly. The inaction on the part of the Speaker or for that matter, non-disposal of the petitions by the Speaker within a reasonable time has allowed the continuance of the alleged infraction of the provisions of the Tenth Schedule by the private respondents.

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A timely disposal of the petitions could have resolved the issue, either way, relating to alleged infraction of the provisions of the Tenth Schedule. The disposal of the petition for disqualification within a reasonable time is a must and indispensable for the reason that if the petition is rejected by the Speaker, the matter comes to an end if not pursued further by the aggrieved party and in the event of the petition being allowed by him, it will definitely entail disqualification of the MLA. In such an eventuality, the question that arises, is as to what will happen to the salary already drawn by the MLA from the day on which the reasonable time has lapsed and if not recovered from him, it will incur a loss to public exchequer. In order to prevent such an eventuality, the petition for disqualification needs to be decided by the Speaker at the earliest possible or within three months as has now been fixed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court. Considering the aforesaid peculiar facts and circumstances of the case, this Court is of the view that there is no reason as to why the applicants shall be denied a relief similar to the one that has been granted by the Hon’ble Supreme Court vide its order dated 18-03-2020 in Shri K. Meghachandra Singh (supra). Moreover, in view of the identical facts and circumstances of the present case with that of Shri K. Meghachandra Singh (supra), this Court is left with no option but to
grant relief in favour of the applicants. It is now less than two years for the term of the Manipur Legislative Assembly coming to an end. If the Hon’ble Speaker fails to decide the petitions at the earliest possible, the term of the Manipur Legislative Assembly may come to an end earlier than the disposal of the petitions and in that event, the petitions will be rendered infructuous and the purpose of filing them will stand defeated. It may further be noted that this order will not, in any manner, prevent the Hon’ble Speaker from making a decision on the petitions and rather, it will be in aid of the Speaker arriving at a prompt decision as to the disqualification under the provisions of the Tenth Schedule.

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