Gujarat : MLAs suspended for 3 years, rule says only one session


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Gujarat Congress may move court: MLAs suspended for 3 years, rule says only one session

Leader of Opposition Paresh Dhanani said, “Under the Gujarat Assembly rules, a member of the Assembly cannot be suspended for more than the session. Sub Section 2 of Section 52 is quite clear... I have brought this to the Speaker’s attention."

Two Congress members of the Gujarat Assembly were on Wednesday suspended for three years and one member for a year, but the Gujarat Vidhan Sabha rule-book has no provision to back such action. The rule-book provides for the suspension of an unruly member for an ongoing session, at the most.

Rule 51 empowers the Speaker to “direct any member whose conduct is in his opinion grossly disorderly to withdraw immediately from the House”. The member concerned “shall withdraw from the House forthwith and shall absent himself from that day’s sitting…”

According to Rule 52 (1): “The Speaker may, if he deems it necessary, name a member who disregards the authority of the Chair or persistently and wilfully obstructs the business of the House by abusing the rules of the House or otherwise.” Under Rule 52 (2): “If a member is so named by the Speaker, the Speaker shall forthwith put the question on a motion being made ‘that such member be suspended from the service of the House for ..days’ (any period not exceeding the remainder of the session).”

No wonder then that the MLAs concerned are considering moving court. One of them, Amrish Der, who represents Rajula constituency, told The Indian Express that they were trying to figure out how could they be suspended for unusually long periods. “We are awaiting an official notification,” he said, “our lawyers are studying the Assembly proceedings.”

The state Congress, in a symbolic protest on Thursday, refrained from asking any question during question hour. Leader of Opposition Paresh Dhanani said, “Under the Gujarat Assembly rules, a member of the Assembly cannot be suspended for more than the session. Sub Section 2 of Section 52 is quite clear… I have brought this to the Speaker’s attention. We are definitely considering challenging it (in court).”

So, how did the Assembly, on a motion moved by Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel and seconded by minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama, suspend Pratap Dudhat (Savarkundla) and Amrish Der for three years and Baldev Thakor (Kalol) for one year?

When asked which rule had been invoked to take the action, Speaker Rajendra Suryaprasad Trivedi told The Indian Express that “all powers are vested in the Speaker”. “The courts,” according to him, “have no jurisdiction in the matter. Similar action has been taken in the past too.”

Rule 47(1) does say that “it shall be the duty of the Speaker to preserve order in the House and the Speaker shall have all powers necessary for the purpose”. But, in the present instance, it is the Assembly that has passed a resolution.

Gujarat Assembly Secretary D M Patel said, “The Gujarat Assembly has its inherent powers and Wednesday’s suspensions must be seen as the ones under the Law of Privilege.”

Former Gujarat Speaker Ramanlal Vora said there was an instance in Maharashtra where a legislator was suspended for four years. “The (Wednesday’s) decision has not been taken by the Speaker, but by the Assembly. The Speaker has power only to suspend a legislator for a day. For longer suspension, the motion has to be moved in the House and voting has to be done. In Maharashtra, there is instance when a legislator was suspended for four years. There are also instances in other states like Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Uttarakhand, where members have been suspended for three years,” Vora told The Indian Express.

In November 2009, the Maharashtra Assembly did suspend four MNS members for four years for assaulting SP’s Abu Asim Azmi, and for allegedly misbehaving with a woman member. The suspension was revoked in July 2010 after the MNS MLAs apologised. More recently, in March 2017, 19 Congress-NCP MLAs were suspended for a year for creating a ruckus during the presentation of the Budget. This, too, was revoked in a few months.

In Karnataka, a House committee set up by the Speaker to probe unruly scenes witnessed during the Speaker’s election in December 2009 recommended suspension of 15 Congress and JDS legislators for periods ranging from six months to one year. The recommendation was, however, not implemented. In October 2010, five Independents and 11 rebel BJP MLAs were disqualified and suspended indefinitely by the Speaker after they sought to withdraw support to the BJP government. This was quashed by the Supreme Court six months later.

According to Practice and Procedure of Parliament by M N Kaul and S L Shakdher, “the conduct of members should not be… derogatory to the dignity of the House or in any way inconsistent with the standards which Parliament is entitled to expect of its members”. However, such cases are examined by the Committee on Privileges or the Ethics Committee or an ad hoc committee of the House, which takes the final call.

Former Lok Sabha Secretary-General P D T Achary said the three-year suspension was “excessive”. “The word suspension means a temporary action, but just imagine if it is stretched to five years,” he said. “And what about their constituents, who would remain unrepresented for three years? …The punishment has to be proportionate to the offence. I am sure it will be challenged and it is unlikely to stand the scrutiny of the court.”

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