New Delhi, Apr 6 (PTI) The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Speaker of Goa Legislative Assembly to pass order on April 20 on the plea filed by a Congress leader seeking disqualification of 10 MLAs, who had joined BJP in July 2019.
A bench of Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian posted the matter for further hearing on April 21 after it was told by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that the Speaker has agreed to pass the order on the disqualification petitions on April 20. The top court said that there cannot be such long delays in passing orders and told Mehta that after April 24, this matter cannot be heard by the same combination of the bench. On April 23, CJI SA Bobde will be superannuating and it will be his last working day in office.
“So please ask the Speaker to decide the order. Being a solicitor general you can ask him to decide the matter or do you want the issue to be heard all over again,” the bench said.
Mehta said that he will seek instructions and requested the bench to list the matter for further hearing on April 22-23.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Congress leader Girish Chodankar, said that this is making mockery of the whole procedure as the top court had on February 10, recorded a statement that the Speaker will dispose of the pleas by February 26 but till now the order has been reserved and no verdict has been pronounced. He said that the matter cannot be argued on merits, if the order is not passed by the Speaker. Mehta initially said he has taken instructions and the order will be pronounced on April 22. The bench then asked Mehta to seek instructions once again from the Speaker to pass orders on April 20. Mehta after taking instructions said that the Speaker has agreed to pass orders on the pending disqualification petitions on April 20.
The bench then posted the matter for further hearing on April 21. On February 10, the top court was told that the Speaker would consider on February 26 the petition filed by Chodankar.
The top court had recorded the statement of Mehta and had orally observed, “We need not hold our hands because they have been kept for hearing. We are saying disposal in the order.” The apex court was hearing a plea of Congress leader Girish Chodankar who has claimed that in July 2019 the 10 MLAs, claiming to constitute two-third of the Congress party in the Assembly, 'decided to merge the said legislature party with the BJP' and communicated that to the Speaker.
The Speaker took note of the 'alleged merger of INC's (Indian National Congress) legislative party in the Goa legislative Assembly, and allotted these ten MLA's seats in the Assembly along with the members of the BJP', the plea has said.
It has said that nine out of these 10 had contested as Congress candidates and were elected as MLAs in the 2017 Assembly elections, while one was elected MLA in the 2019 Assembly bye-election.
Chodankar has sought directions to restrain the 10 MLAs from participating in Assembly proceedings during pendency of the disqualification petition.
The plea has also sought the apex court's direction to restrain three MLAs -- Chandrakant Kavalekar, Jennifer Monserrate and Filipe Rodrigues -- from functioning as ministers in Goa during the pendency of disqualification petition.
The top court had earlier sought responses from the Speaker's office as well as the 10 MLAs on the plea of Chodankar, the then Goa Pradesh Congress Committee chief. He later resigned from the post.
The Congress leader had last month urged the apex court to direct the Assembly Speaker to decide his plea seeking disqualification of these 10 MLAs.
He had said that a disqualification petition was filed in August 2019 and one-and-half year has gone by but a decision has not been taken on it.
Chodankar said he had filed the disqualification petition on August 8, 2019 before the Speaker and had contended that these MLAs 'had ex-facie incurred disqualification under Article 191(2) of the Constitution, read with para 2 of the Tenth Schedule, and are liable to be disqualified as member of the Legislative Assembly'.
The petitioner has said the matter was heard on February 13, 2020 but he has neither received any communication from the office of Speaker nor has he been intimated of any order being passed on the disqualification petition.
Referring to an apex court judgement, the plea said the Speaker is required to decide a petition of this nature 'within a reasonable period of time, and in any case, absent exceptional circumstances, within a period of 3 months'. PTI MNL ABA MNL RKS RKS