January 14, 2022 7:14:50 pm
Following the Supreme Court’s observation that the decision to suspend 12 BJP MLAs from the Maharashtra Assembly for one year is prima facie unconstitutional as there is a constitutional bar to it operating beyond six months, the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government is likely to tread cautiously on this issue.
On 11 January, while hearing the petition of 12 BJP legislators challenging their suspension for 1 year from the state Assembly, the apex court said that while the House has the power to suspend a member, it cannot be for more than 59 days and pointed out that under Article 190(4) of the Constitution, if a member of a House is absent from all meetings without its permission for a period of 60 days, the House may declare the seat vacant. Terming the move against the MLAs as “worse than expulsion”, it said that each constituency has an equal amount of right to be represented in the House.
During the Maharashtra Assembly’s monsoon session last year, 12 BJP MLAs were suspended for one year for allegedly misbehaving with the presiding officer in the Assembly Speaker’s chamber. The suspended MLAs include Ashish Shelar, Sanjay Kute, Atul Bhatkhalkar, Girish Mahajan, Jaikumar Rawal, Yogesh Sagar, Parag Alvani, Harish Pimple, Ram Satpute, Narayan Kuche, Bunty Bhangadia and Abhimanyu Pawar.
One day before the hearing of the case in the Supreme Court, 6 of the 12 suspended MLAs appeared before Assembly Deputy Speaker Narhari Zhirwal for a hearing on their suspension, after they were asked to come and record their statements before the Deputy Speaker.
Sources in the Maharashtra government said that the apex court’s remarks have “certainly added some pressure” on the government over the issue. “The state Legislature Assembly has exercised its power with regard to the behaviour of some of its legislators. The Supreme Court’s remarks have certainly added some pressure on the government but a call will be taken considering all aspects of the issue,” said a government source.
A senior minister raised questions over Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari not approving the 12 names recommended by the Uddhav Thackeray Cabinet, in November 2020, to the state Legislative Council through the Governor’s quota. “It has been more than a year that the Governor has not approved any names despite the recommendation of the state Cabinet. The Governor is supposed to act on the advice of the state Cabinet but the names of 12 MLCs have not been approved. But, nobody is calling it unconstitutional,” said the minister.
There are a number of instances where members of the Maharashtra Assembly or Legislative Council have been suspended for six months or more on various grounds over the last several years.
In March 2017, Prashant Paricharak, a BJP-backed independent member of the Legislative Council (MLC), was suspended for his certain objectionable remarks for 18 months, although his suspension was revoked in February 2018. However, following the Shiv Sena members’ protest and demand for his dismissal, Paricharak’s entry into the House was “restricted” till June 2019.
On 25 July 2000, 12 Sena MLAs were suspended — 6 members for 1 year and another 6 for six months — for creating ruckus in the House and their “misbehaviour” after the then Congress-NCP government decided to arrest the Sena founder, Balasaheb Thackeray, for allegedly inciting communal hatred in the cases pertaining to the 1993 Mumbai riots. Two days later, 2 Sena MLAs were suspended for 1 year on similar ground. Subsequently, the 1-year suspension of 8 Sena legislators was reduced to six months.
In June 2009, 3 BJP and Sena MLAs were suspended for 3 years for their “misbehaviour” in the House. However, their suspension was withdrawn in November 2009.
In November 2009, 4 MNS MLAs were suspended for 4 years for their “inappropriate” behaviour in the House, but it was withdrawn in July 2010.
On the issue of the current suspension of 12 MLAs, Dr Anant Kalse, former principal secretary of the Maharashtra Legislature Secretariat, said, “The Supreme Court has given its observation considering all aspects, and its view of depriving the members of representing the constituencies is right. But, the Constitution has given powers to the House under Article 194 for suspension of members for their behaviour unbecoming of the House under the penal jurisdiction of the House.”
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