New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday kept the disqualification proceedings on hold till July 11 and sought responses to pleas by rebel MLAs questioning the legality of notices seeking their disqualification.
A vacation bench of Justices Surya Kant and J B Pardiwala was told by senior advocate N K Kaul, who appeared for the rebel MLAs, that the Uddhav Thackeray group is in the “minority” of the legislative party and has been “subverting the state machinery”.
Kaul said that atmosphere is not conducive for these MLAs in Bombay as they have been threatened. He cited the apex court verdict in the ‘Nabam Rebia’ case of Arunachal Pradesh and said the deputy speaker is not competent to proceed with the disqualification of MLAs when a plea for his own removal is pending.
Kaul said 39 MLAs are together against the minority group.
What Was The Nabam Rebia Case?
In November 2016, a constitutional crisis arose in the state of Arunachal Pradesh with 20 Congress MLAs starting a rebellion against then-Chief Minister Nabam Tuki. 33 members of the Assembly; including 20 from Congress, 11 from BJP and 2 Independent MLAs met the Governor to express their displeasure regarding the Speaker and the ruling Government.
The Governor, without any advise or discussion with Tuki, listed the removal of the Speaker on the legislative agenda of January 2016. The Speaker, Nabam Rebia, disqualified the rebel MLAs on the grounds of defection even before the Assembly could meet.
The Gauhati High Court then stayed the disqualification of the MLAs and the Speaker’s plea was turned down. The Speaker then approached the the Supreme Court and the matter was listed before a 5 judge bench.
The Supreme Court considered whether the Speaker may disqualify rebel MLAs while a motion to remove him was pending in the House. Notably, Art 179(c) of the Constitution provides that a Speaker may be removed from office by a resolution of the Assembly passed ‘by a majority of all the then members.
Significantly, the Constituent Assembly debates reveal that the phrase ‘all the then members’ was preferred to ‘members present and voting’ as it was precise.
Hence, the Court concluded the Speaker Rebia’s decision to disqualify rebel MLAs was an attempt to overcome voting by ‘all the then members’ and unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court’s ruling proved to be a landmark verdict as it was for the first time when a government was reinstated even after the formation of a new one.
With PTI Inputs.