The Maharashtra Assembly may have suspended AIMIM legislator Waris Pathan for the remaining part of the current Budget session for saying that he would not chant ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ but its rule-book has no provision to back such an action.
Asked by The Indian Express under which specific rule had Pathan been suspended, Assembly Speaker Haribhau Bagade declined to respond.
Pressed to explain, he said: “Members belonging to all sides had expressed the feeling (that he be suspended) (sabhi paksh ke sadasyon nein bhavna vyakt ki thi)”. Asked how could he, as Speaker, allow the adoption of a resolution when there was no rule for facilitating it, Bagade said: “One has to respect the sentiments of the House”.
The rules do empower the Speaker to suspend a member but in this case, the action has been taken by the Assembly and not the presiding officer.
Rule No. 53 of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Rules states: “The Speaker may direct any member who refuses to obey his decision, or whose conduct is, in his opinion, grossly disorderly, to withdraw immediately from the Assembly and any member so ordered to withdraw shall do so forthwith and shall absent himself from the remainder of the day’s meeting. If any member is ordered to withdraw a second time in the same session, the Speaker may direct the member to absent himself from the meetings of the assembly for any period not longer than the remainder of the session, and the member so directed shall absent himself accordingly.”
The ostensible reason for Pathan’s suspension also flies in the face of precedent. When contacted, former Secretary-General of the Lok Sabha P D T Achary said: “A member can be suspended from the House only when he obstructs proceedings and disobeys the Speaker’s directions to maintain order. There can be no other justifiable ground for a suspension. Therefore, the crucial question in the case of Maharashtra is, did he (Pathan) or didn’t he obstruct the proceedings? If he did not, the suspension is unwarranted”.
Achary said, “I would like to understand, is there a law which compels people to chant Bharat Mata ki Jai, or for that matter, even Jai Hind? There is none. Bharat Mata ki Jai was a popular slogan of freedom fighters, but I don’t know why has it suddenly become very important to chant it now. I would certainly like to chant it, but at the same time, I am sure, you can not punish anyone for not chanting it.”
A current secretary of the Assembly of a Union territory said: “Action is taken for words spoken or deeds done, which are perceived to be against the rules or unbecoming of the member of the legislature. Under which rules can one act for words not spoken or deeds not done is inexplicable?”
Said a former secretary-general of the Lok Sabha on the condition of anonymity: “Maybe right or wrong, once a resolution is passed by an Assembly, a member cannot do anything. He can go to the court, but I doubt if even the court can undo a unanimous resolution passed by an assembly with regard to the conduct of one of its members.”
Incidentally, in the Lok Sabha, there are rules that provide for a milder action by the Speaker and a stronger action through a resolution by the House with regard to the suspension of a member. But here, too, “disorderly conduct” and “wilful obstruction” are the criteria.
Rule No 373 of Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Lok Sabha says: “The Speaker may direct any member whose conduct is, in his opinion, grossly disorderly to withdraw immediately from the House, and any member so ordered to withdraw shall do so forthwith and shall absent himself during the remainder of the day’s sitting.”
Rule No 374(1) states: “The Speaker may, if he deems it necessary, name a member who disregards the authority of the Chair or abuses the rules of the House by persistently and wilfully obstructing the business thereof.” According to Rule 374(2): “If a member is so named by the Speaker, the Speaker shall, on a motion being made forthwith put the question that the member (naming him) be suspended from the service of the House for a period not exceeding the remainder of the session: Provided that the House may, at any time, on a motion being made, resolve that such suspension be terminated.”