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Current Affairs: Suspension of MLAs

Suspension of MLAs

Context:

The Supreme Court revoked the one-year suspension of 12 MLAs from the Maharashtra Assembly, calling it an “irrational” act that would impact the democratic set-up, leave constituencies unrepresented and help governments on a “thin majority” manipulate numbers.

Relevance

GS II- Parliament

Dimensions:
  1. About the Suspension of MLAs:
  2. What are the arguments by Maharashtra Assembly?
  3. What are the arguments by the Supreme Court?

About the Suspension of MLAs:

  • The MLAs were suspended for misbehaviour in the Assembly regarding the disclosure of OBC data.
  • The challenge to suspension is based primarily on grounds of denial of natural justice principles and violation of established procedure.
  • The 12 MLAs claim they were not given an opportunity to present their case and the suspension violated their fundamental right to equality before the law, as guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution.
  • According to Rule 53 of the Maharashtra Assembly, the “Speaker may direct any member who refuses to obey his decision or whose behaviour is, in his judgement, grossly disorderly, to withdraw immediately from the Assembly.”
  • The member is required to “absent himself for the remainder of the day’s meeting.”
  • If a member is ordered to withdraw for the 2ndtime in the same session, the Speaker may direct the member to be absent “for any duration not exceeding the remainder of the Session.

What are the arguments by Maharashtra Assembly?

  • According to Article 212, the House acted within its legislative competence, and courts lack jurisdiction to inquire about legislative procedure.
  • According to Article 212 (1), “the validity of any proceedings in the Legislature of a State shall not be called into question on the ground of any alleged irregularity of procedure.”
  • The state has also highlighted Article 194 on the powers and privileges of the House, arguing that any member who violates these privileges can be suspended using the House’s inherent powers.
  • It has denied the power to suspend a member can be exercised only under Assembly Rule 53.

What are the arguments by the Supreme Court?

  • Violation of the Basic structure of the Constitution: The Constitution’s basic structure would be violated if the constituencies of the suspended MLAs were unrepresented in the Assembly for a full year.
  • The bench cited Article 190 (4) of the Constitution, which states that “if a member of a House of the Legislature of a State is absent from all meetings thereof without permission of the House for a period of sixty days, the House may declare his seat vacant.”
  • Statutory Requirement: Section 151 (A) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 states that “a bye-election for filling any vacancy shall be held within six months of the date of the occurrence of the vacancy.”
  • This means that, with the exceptions specified in this section, no constituency can go more than six months without a representative.
  • Punishing the Constituency as a Whole: The Supreme Court ruled that the one-year suspension was unconstitutional because it exceeded the six-month limit and amounted to “punishing the constituency as a whole” rather than “punishing the member.”
  • The Supreme Court is anticipated to rule on whether the judiciary has the authority to intervene in House proceedings.
  • According to constitutional experts, the court has clarified in prior rulings that the judiciary can intervene in the case of an unconstitutional act committed by the House.

-Source: The Hindu

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September 2022
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