February 26, 2021 11:27:28 pm
Following the submissions made before the Supreme Court on February 10, Goa legislative assembly speaker Rajesh Patnekar on Friday heard the disqualification petitions filed against 10 MLAs who defected from the Congress to the BJP in 2019 and two from the Maharashtawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) who followed suit.
Disqualification petition against the 10 Congress legislators was filed by the Goa Pradesh Congress Committee President Girish Chodankar and later another petition was filed by MGP leader Ramakrishna Dhavalikar against two of the party’s MLAs who defected to the BJP, including current deputy chief minister Manohar Ajgaonkar. Friday’s hearing comes after the preliminary hearing held in Chodankar’s petition in October 2019. Chodankar and Dhavalikar had moved the Supreme Court seeking a direction to the Speaker to decide the disqualification petitions.
The hearing that began at 10:30 am on Friday, concluded a little past 7 pm with the Speaker hearing the submissions of the lawyers for the Congress, the MGP and the MLAs against whom the disqualification petitions were filed. The petitioners had sought the disqualification of the 12 respondents under Article 191(2) of the Constitution read with para 2 of the Tenth Schedule.
Arguing for the Congress lawyer Abhijit Gosawi contended that para 4 under the Tenth Schedule lists out exceptions against defection and it requires the merger of the original political party with another to preclude the merger of the two-third members of the legislative party. Gosawi said that the claim of the defectors that the Congress “has ceased to exist” in the Goa legislative assembly and has “merged in the BJP” was faulty because Congress is still a national political party and has not merged with any other party.
Arguing on similar lines, MGP lawyer Dhaval Zaveri said that the defectors had also produced a resolution of March 2019 claiming the merger between the parties, it’s admissibility before the Speaker was, however, contested.
Lawyer Sagar Sardesai, who represented five MLAs who had defected from the Congress to the BJP, including revenue minister Jennifer Monserrate and Panaji MLA Atanasio Monserrate, said that they contended that the ‘merger’ of the Congress legislative party with the BJP was valid because 10 out of the party’s 15 MLAs – two-third of the party’s MLAs – had agreed to join the BJP. The lawyers of the MLAs also sought to examine witnesses but the Speaker, however, reserved his order in the petitions, the lawyers confirmed.
The Supreme Court is expected to hear Chodankar’s petition on March 8.
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