Punjab Advocate General Atul Nanda Friday informed the Punjab and Haryana High Court that the state Vidhan Sabha has framed the rules regarding the procedure to be adopted in deciding the question of disqualification of members on ground of defection and will place the same before the House for approval during the Budget Session commencing next week.
Nanda, on instructions from Secretary of the Vidhan Sabha, told the court that the rules are likely to be approved by the House. Seeking adjournment of two weeks in a petition seeking directions to the Speaker for disqualification of former Aam Aadmi Party leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira, Nanda submitted that action on petitioner’s grievance would be taken in accordance with law in a time-bound manner after approval of rules. The Assembly session commences from February 20.
The draft rules have been prepared in terms of Para 8 of the 10th Schedule of the Constitution of India. Para 6 of the 10th Schedule relates to the decision on questions regarding disqualification on ground of defection. Under Para 8 sub-paragraph 1(d), there has to be a procedure for deciding any question regarding disqualification of a member and for any inquiry which may be made for the purpose of deciding such question.
Nanda had been asked by the single bench of Justice BS Walia to assist the court about HC’s jurisdiction under Article 226 to issue such directions to the Speaker. Nanda told the court that the legal issue is pending before a Constitution Bench of five judges in the matter of B Sampath Kumar but a ruling has also being passed by the Supreme Court regarding High Court’s powers in another matter.
Regarding the pendency of decision in the MLAs’ case, Nanda submitted that Punjab is one of the states where the requisite rules for deciding such disqualification applications had not been framed in nearly 30 years, adding they have have been prepared now and await approval of the House. The approval is required in terms of Para 8 (2) of the 10th Schedule of the Constitution of India.
The submission was made in a case filed by a Kapurthala resident Harsimran Singh through advocate Sukhdev Singh Khokher for a direction to the Speaker to decide the question of disqualification of Khaira within two weeks. The direction to the Speaker was sought in light of the recent judgment of Supreme Court in a Manipur case.
Khaira was elected as MLA from Bholath constituency on the ticket of AAP in 2017 but resigned from the party in 2019 and floated a new outfit ‘The Punjab Ekta Party’. Under the 10th Schedule, a member of a House belonging to any political party is liable to be disqualified if he has voluntarily given up the membership of such political party.
In 2019, Harsimran Singh had filed a petition before the Vidhan Sabha Speaker for disqualification of Khaira but till date no action has been taken on it, the court was told. The case was adjourned to March 2 after Nanda’s request for deferment of hearing.
Meanwhile, another petition seeking revival of a previously dismissed petition praying for directions for withholding of salary and other perks of the four former AAP MLAs – two of them deserted the party in Punjab to form a new group and two others joined the Congress earlier this year – in view of their defection, was dismissed.
While the petition also had been seeking revival of the case in light of the Manipur case verdict of Supreme Court, the division bench of Chief Justice Ravi Shanker Jha and Justice Rajiv Sharma dismissed the application for revival over the question of maintainability.
The former AAP MLAs include Singh Khaira, the PEP leader Baldev Singh and two Congress-joinees Nazar Singh Mansshahia and Amarjit Singh Sandoa. The rules to be presented before the Vidhan Sabha are likely to lead to a decision regarding the pending question of their disqualification on the ground of defection.
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