HC bars entry of seven defected Congress MLAs to Assembly

The seven MLAs are Sanasam Bira, Ginsuanhau, Oinam Lukhoi, Ngamthang Haokip, Yengkhom Surchandra, Kshetrimayum Bira, and Paonam Brojen.

In a landmark judgment, a single bench of Justice Kh Nobin of High Court of Manipur on Monday barred seven defected Congress MLAs from entering the state Legislative Assembly till the petition of the disqualification cases are finally disposed of by the Speaker’s Tribunal.

The seven MLAs who had been stopped from entering the assembly are Sanasam Bira, Ginsuanhau, Oinam Lukhoi, Ngamthang Haokip, Yengkhom Surchandra, Kshetrimayum Bira, and Paonam Brojen.

The single bench judgment stated that it is now less than two years for the term of Manipur Legislative Assembly coming to an end. If the Speaker’s Tribunal fails to decide the petitions at the earliest possible date, the term may come to an end earlier than the disposal of the petitions and the petitions will be rendered infructuous and the purpose of filing the petition will stand defeated, said the judgment. However, the court has not prevented the decision of the speaker and not opined any merits of the petitions pending before the speaker, hoping that he will take decision under the provision of the Tenth Schedule.

Congress party MLAs have filed miscellaneous petitions praying to restrain seven MLAs from entering the premises of Manipur Legislative Assembly before the High Court. Accordingly, the court has reserved the order on June 5. However, respondents’ counsel submitted that the high court is not empowered to pass an interim order. Any order passed by the court may tantamount to disqualifying the private respondents for all practical purposes. And the speaker’s order granting opportunities on some occasion to respondents for filing objections were not questionable by anyone before the appropriate forum. The present petitions are absolutely misconceived and are liable to be rejected by the court, observed the counsel.

It is also submitted that the High Court is not competent to pass interim order under the powers of judicial review under article 226 and 227 of Indian Constitution, when the disqualification proceedings are pending before the speaker. However, it was argued that while the High Court considered the Supreme Court statement that when a Speaker refrains from deciding a petition within a reasonable time, there was clearly an error which attracted jurisdiction of the High Court in exercise of the power of judicial review. Hence, the High Court has jurisdiction to exercise its power as disqualification cases are pending before the Speaker to decide it within reasonable time.

The judgment mentioned that the petitioners filed petitions in November 2018 but till now, the cases are pending before the speaker. In spite of a judgment of the Supreme Court and direction to the speaker to decide the petitions within four weeks in January 2020, the cases are pending. And again in March, 2020 the Supreme Court had also observed that what is reasonable will depend on the facts of each case but absent exceptional circumstances for which there is good reason, a period of three months from the date of filing petition is the outer limit within which the petition must be decided by the speaker.

The speaker acting as tribunal ought to act fairly and reasonably but he has utterly failed to do so. The speaker appears to have no respect for the provision of Indian Constitution including article 14 which strikes at root of arbitrariness, malafide etc and decision of the speaker as well. It is the speaker who has attracted the attention of the court on account of his failure to discharge his duties in accordance with law, the court order mentioned.

MLA, K Meghachandra who is one of the petitioners lauded the High Court order and termed it “a landmark judgment”. “The speaker has created history in Manipur Legislative Assembly by not acting on the pending disqualification cases for about two years in spite of Supreme Court directions”, stated Meghachandra. He made the statement at a press meet held at his quarters located at Babupura, on Monday.

First Published:June 8, 2020, 3:09 p.m.

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