CLP merger row: High Court issues notice to Telangana Speaker, 12 MLAshttps://indianexpress.com/article/india/clp-merger-row-high-court-issues-notice-to-telangana-speaker-12-mlas-5777390/

CLP merger row: High Court issues notice to Telangana Speaker, 12 MLAs

A division bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and Justice Shameem Akther issued notices to the Speaker, Assembly Secretary and 12 Congress MLAs and asked them to file their counters within four weeks

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In a jolt to the Congress in Telangana, the Speaker recognised 12 of its 18 MLAs on June six as members of the TRS legislature party, hours after they moved him seeking merger of their group with the ruling party. (Twitter/@PSRTRS)

The Telangana High Court Wednesday issued notices to the state Assembly Speaker and 12 Congress defectors on a petition challenging the merger of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) with the TRS.

A division bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and Justice Shameem Akther issued notices to the Speaker, Assembly Secretary and 12 Congress MLAs and asked them to file their counters within four weeks.

CLP leader M Bhatti Vikramarka and Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee President N Uttam Kumar Reddy moved the High Court Monday with a plea to suspend the ‘bulletin’ on the merger issued by the Telangana State legislature secretary at the behest of the Assembly Speaker Pocharam Srinivas Reddy.

In a jolt to the Congress in Telangana, the Speaker recognised 12 of its 18 MLAs on June six as members of the TRS legislature party, hours after they moved him seeking merger of their group with the ruling party.

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The Speaker acceded the request of the defected MLAs considering the fact they constituted two-thirds of the Congress Legislature Party strength, a requirement for merger under the anti-defection law, according to the bulletin.

The petitioners contended that declaring the merger of a political party or a legislature party with another one was predominantly a statutory duty conferred on the Election Commission of India under the Representation of People’s Act and not on the Assembly Speaker.

After hearing the petition, the bench issued notices to the Speaker, Assembly Secretary and the 12 Congress MLAs and asked them to file their counters in four weeks, petitioners’ counsel Jandhyala Ravi Shankar told reporters.

The High Court had on Tuesday issued notices to the Speaker and Telangana Legislative Council Chairman, Secretaries of the Assembly and Council and others, seeking their response on two writ petitions filed against four Congress MLCs and 10 MLAs joining the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS).

The petitions were filed by Congress leader and former MLC Shabbir Ali in December 2018 challenging the merger of Telangana Congress Council Legislature Party with the TRS Council Legislature Party.

Another petition was filed by Vikramarka and Uttam Kumar Reddy in April this year seeking a direction to the Assembly Speaker to disqualify 10 of their MLAs who had joined the TRS then.

Two more Congress MLAs had joined the treasury benches after the petition was filed.

Uttam Kumar Reddy had earlier said these legislators had not joined the TRS enmasse, but had expressed their desire to switch over to the ruling party separately on different occasions since March 2019.

He had also said the Assembly Speaker announced the merger without hearing the pending petition on disqualification of defected legislators.

The Congress had won 19 seats in the Assembly polls in December 2018, but since early March, 12 of the MLAs had switched loyalties to the TRS.