THE suspension of AIMIM MLA Waris Pathan from the Maharashtra Assembly for the entire Budget session has brought to fore the debate on how effective suspension is to discipline errant members.
Since 1999, suspension of nearly 78 per cent of the MLAs had been revoked before completing their punishment.
As per rules of proceedings, the Speaker can suspend a member from the House for disregarding the authority of the chair or abusing the rules of the house. Unlike certain states such as Odisha which mandate that a member cannot be suspended for more than seven working days, Maharashtra’s legislators can be suspended for an indefinite period.
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In November 2014, five Congress MLAs were suspended for two years for allegedly manhandling and heckling Governor C Vidyasagar Rao. Their suspension was revoked in December 2014.
Since the setting up of the Maharashtra Assembly in 1960, the Speaker has suspended 298 legislators for misconduct. These ranged from suspension for a day to cancellation of membership. The only legislator to see his membership being taken away was Forward Bloc’s Jambuwantrao Dhote, whose membership was cancelled after he threw a paperweight while being escorted out by security officers.
Other members of the Assembly have been luckier. Only 57 per cent of suspended legislators ever served their full sentence with the Speaker revoking the punishment of 128 legislators.
Since 1999, a total of 102 legislators were suspended and 84 of these suspensions were later revoked. However, pre-1999 the Speaker seemed to have wielded a firm hand in ensuring that offending members were punished.
During the period 1960 till 1999, 196 MLAs were suspended of which the suspension of only 21 per cent (44 legislators) legislators was revoked.
Political watchgroups like the Association for Democratic Reforms have questioned the transparency in suspending and revoking the suspension of MLAs. It has also called for legislators to improve their behaviour.
“There is a serious lack of transparency on why some members are suspended and why their suspensions are revoked. Many a times the neutrality of a Speaker who generally hails from a ruling party could be suspect. However, there is a serious need for our legislators to learn to behave in the Assembly,” according to Anil Bairwal, National Coordinator of Association for Democratic Reforms.