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SC quashes ‘arbitrary-unconstitutional’ suspension of 12 Maha MLAs

The apex court held that the suspension could have only been for the Monsoon Session in July 2021. The top court had on January 19 reserved its order on the plea filed by suspended lawmakers led by Ashish Shelar.

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday set aside the “indefinite suspension” of 12 Bharatiya Janata Party legislators from Maharashtra Assembly noting it could only be limited to the Monsoon Session of 2021.

A bench headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar and also comprising Justice CT Ravikumar called the suspension “unconstitutional and arbitrary” on a joint appeal filed by the 12 opposition MLAs challenging their one-year suspension from the state Legislative Assembly for allegedly misbehaving with the presiding officer.

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The apex court held that the suspension could have only been for the Monsoon Session in July 2021. The top court had on January 19 reserved its order on the plea filed by suspended lawmakers led by Ashish Shelar.

It was on July 22 last year they filed the plea in the top court challenging the resolution passed by the state assembly. The 12 suspended members are Ashish Shelar, Sanjay Kute, Abhimanyu Pawar, Girish Mahajan, Atul Bhatkhalkar, Parag Alavani, Harish Pimpale, Yogesh Sagar, Jay Kumar Rawat, Narayan Kuche, Ram Satpute and Bunty Bhangdia.

The 12 MLAs were suspended on July 5, 2021 from the Assembly for one year after the Uddhav Thackeray government accused them of “misbehaving” with presiding officer Bhaskar Jadhav in the Speaker’s chamber.

The motion to suspend these MLAs was moved by state Parliamentary Affairs Minister Anil Parab and passed by a voice vote. During the course of the arguments, the apex court said the suspension for one year should be linked with some purpose and there has to be an “overpowering” reason the member should not be allowed to even attend the next session.

The bench has observed the resolution passed by the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly is prima facie “unconstitutional” as such a suspension cannot operate beyond six months owing to a constitutional bar. It said during the hearing earlier that the explicit outer limit as per the Constitution for an MLA to be absent from his seat is 60 days, after which the seat is deemed to be vacated.

“How long can seat remain vacant? At the most six months, outer limit can be there. Here we are talking about a constituency being represented in a parliamentary form of democracy? “Is this not hitting the basic structure of the Constitution when the 12 constituencies are unrepresented?” the bench had asked.

“We can say that the decision for suspension can only operate till 6 months and later than that it will be hit by constitutional bar,” it had added. The bench had also taken exception to the arguments of senior advocate Aryama Sundaram representing the Maharashtra government that the House has absolute powers to frame its own rules, including on period of suspension of its members.

To this, the bench had then said that even if the Assembly rules are read in consonance with the Constitution, the maximum bar could be for six months only. It further said the decision of suspension is even worse than expelling them, since no one can then represent the constituents of the suspended representatives in the Assembly. 

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