6 Rebel Congress MLAs To Move Supreme Court After Being Disqualified By Speaker

Himachal Political Crisis: The Congress party had issued whips to its members in the House during voting on the state budget.

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Himachal Political Crisis: 6 Rebel Congress MLAs To Move Supreme Court After Being Disqualified By Speaker

Shimla: Kuldeep Singh Pathania, the Speaker of the Himachal Pradesh Assembly, has recently taken a disciplinarian stance against six Congress members who abstained from participating in the voting process during the budget session. These members had previously displayed disloyalty by cross-voting in the preceding Rajya Sabha elections. As an aftermath of this move, one of these penalized MLAs has voiced their protest by expressing a desire to question the Speaker’s verdict in the Supreme Court.

Notably, the six rebel Congress MLAs had abstained from voting on the cut motion and finance bill (Budget) in the assembly, defying a party whip to vote in favour of the government. The ruling Congress had sought their disqualification on this ground.

List of Disqualified MLAs

The disqualified MLAs are Sudhir Sharma, Ravi Thakur, Rajinder Rana, Inder Dutt Lakhanpal, Chetanya Sharma and Devinder Kumar Bhutto. A notification in this regard was issued on Thursday evening, which further said that these six MLAs ceased to be members of the Himachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly with effect from February 29.

“Consequent upon this, the seats of assembly constituencies Dharamshala, Lahaul and Spiti, Sujanpur, Barsar, Gagret and Kutlehar have fallen vacant and six vacancies have occurred in the Fourteenth Vidhan Sabha of HP,” the notification said. The six MLAs who have been disqualified would appeal in the Supreme Court against the orders, Rajinder Rana told the PTI on Thursday.

“Only one of the six MLAs received the notice on Whatsapp on February 27 night and we were present in the House on February 27 and 28,” he said.

Following the disqualification of the rebel legislators, the effective strength of the House has been reduced from 68 to 62, while the number of Congress MLAs has shrunk from 40 to 34. It is the first time in the history of Himachal Pradesh that any MLA has been disqualified under the anti-defection law aimed at checking defections.

Speaker Kuldeep Singh Pathania States Reasons Behind Disqualification

Announcing the disqualification of the six rebel MLAs at a press conference, Speaker Kuldeep Singh Pathania said they attracted disqualification under the anti-defection law as they defied the whip and ceased to be members of the House with immediate effect. These disqualified MLAs, who had voted for BJP candidate Harsh Mahajan for the lone seat in the Rajya Sabha polls, were not present in the House during voting on the budget.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Harshwardhan filed a petition before the Speaker seeking disqualification of these members under the anti-defection law on Tuesday evening for defying the whip that required them to be present in the House and vote for the budget.

Speaker’s Show-cause Notice To MLAs

The Speaker issued show-cause notice to the MLAs and asked them to appear at 1.30 pm on Wednesday for hearing. These MLAs left for Panchkula after voting for the Rajya Sabha polls on Tuesday and arrived for hearing on Wednesday. After hearing the arguments of both parties, the Speaker reserved the judgment for Wednesday and announced it on Thursday.

Senior advocate Satya Pal Jain, who appeared for the rebel Congress MLAs, had argued that these MLAs were only given show-cause notice and neither the copy of the petition nor the annexure were supplied. He said seven days’ time was mandatory for replying to the notice but no time was given.

Under the anti-defection law, any elected member who gives up the membership of a political party voluntarily or votes or abstains from voting in the House, contrary to any direction issued by his political party, is liable for disqualification.

The Congress party had issued whips to the members to be present in the House during voting on the passing of the budget. These MLAs had signed the attendance register but abstained from the House during voting on the budget, the Speaker said.

These members were issued notices for defying the whip through Whatsapp and e-mail and were asked to appear for a hearing. The House passed the Finance Bill by voice vote after Pathania suspended 15 BJP MLAs. The speaker then adjourned the session sine die.

In a stunning upset for the ruling Congress in Himachal Pradesh, the BJP on Tuesday won the state’s lone Rajya Sabha seat with its candidate Harsh Mahajan, defeating Congress stalwart Abhishek Manu Singhvi and apparently setting the stage for a no-trust motion in the assembly.

In his 30-page order, the Speaker mentioned the judgments of the Supreme Court and high courts under the anti-defection law. Narrating the chronology of events, he said the plea of the advocate of the rebel MLAs, Satya Pal Jain, for giving time to reply to the notice was not entertained as “evidence was absolutely clear.”.

The Speaker said delivering quick judgment was necessary in such cases to maintain the dignity of democracy and check the “Aaya Ram, Gaya Ram” phenomenon. The judgment has no link with cross-voting by these MLAs in the Rajya Sabha polls, he added.

(With inputs from agencies)

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