The Supreme Court on Tuesday (February 4, 2020) sought the Tamil Nadu Government’s response on a Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) petition alleging that the Assembly Speaker failed to act on a plea seeking disqualification of 11 All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) who voted against the Chief Minister Edappi K. Palaniswami during a 2017 confidence vote. Deputy Chief Minister Ottakarathevar Panneerselvam was a part of the 11 MLA.
A bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde and comprising Justices BR Gavai and Surya Kant, took note of the submission of SeniorAdvocate Kapil Sibal, appearing on behalf of DMK, that the disqualification plea was moved before the Speaker in March 2017, but even after a lapse of three years no action has been taken by the Speaker.
“Tell us whether you are going to take action. If yes, then when and how,” the bench asked the law officer representing the Tamil Nadu Government.
The bench fixed the plea for hearing on February 14, 2020 when the state government will have to respond.
During a hearing on January 24, DMK had referred to the ApexCourt verdict in the Manipur Minister Case in which the court said the Parliament should “rethink” whether the Speaker of a House should continue to have powers to disqualify lawmakers as such a functionary "belongs to a particular political party".
The Madras High Court in April 2018 dismissed DMK’s plea seeking to disqualify the MLAs, citing pendency of a plea in the ApexCourt on the powers of a court to issue directions to an assembly speaker.
The plea seeks disqualification of O Panneerselvam and 10 others for having voted against the E Palaniswami Government when they were in the rebel camp. It contends that by voting against the trust motion, these MLAs violated the whip and hence attracted disqualification under the anti-defection law.
The Tenth Schedule of the Constitution of India, inserted in 1985 lays down the process by which legislators may be disqualified on grounds on defection by the Presiding officer of a legislature based on a petition by any other member of the house.
Author: Shubham Jindal