Petitions challenging the disqualification of 9 rebel Congress MLAs from Uttarakhand Legislative Assembly, dismissed

Uttaranchal High Court: While deciding the issue that whether the Speaker of the Uttarakhand Legislative Assembly followed the principles of natural justice, and whether the criteria enshrined in Para. 2 (1)(a) of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution was met while disqualifying nine rebel MLAs of Indian National Congress (INC), the bench of U.C Dhyani, J., dismissing the petitions, observed that from the facts and the documents presented before this Court, it is clear that the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly did not violate the principles of natural justice and in undue haste, did not disqualify the rebel MLAs. At the same time, the Court observed that by the conduct of the petitioners, it has been established that they had ‘voluntarily given up the membership of their political party’, thereby fulfilling the criteria of Para. 2(1)(a) of the Tenth Schedule.

The present petitions were filed against the Order dated 27.03.2016 issued by the Speaker of Uttarakhand Legislative Assembly disqualifying nine rebel MLAs of INC. The petitioners via their counsels C. A. Sundaram et al., argued that the Speaker showed undue haste while issuing the impugned Order thereby violating the principle of audi altrem partem.

The Court observed that the principles of natural justice cannot be put into a strait jacket. Relying on landmark decision of the Supreme Court on the same point, the Court stated that a quasi- judicial authority such as that of a Speaker is required to maintain a balance between ‘delayed justice’ and ‘hurried justice’. However there is nothing in the facts to show that the Speaker violated the principles of natural justice. Speaking of the criteria laid down on Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, the Court stated that while the petitioners beheld their act of defection to be an act of ‘dissent’, but for the Speaker the same amounted to fulfillment of the criteria laid down in Para. 2(1)(a) of Tenth Schedule of the Constitution. The Court also directed that the present decision of the Court shall “not come in the way of Speaker to review his own order, in accordance with law, if the petitioners are so advised to move for the same, on any of the grounds available to them in law.” [Subodh Uniyal v. Speaker Legislative Assembly, 2016 SCC OnLine Utt 465, decided on 09.05.2016]

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