The Supreme Court Thursday said it is for the legislature to frame law for timely disposal of disqualification petitions by the Speaker or Chairman of the House under the tenth schedule of the Constitution. A bench of Chief Justice N V Ramana and Justices A S Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy said, How can we frame law? It’s all a matter of Parliament.
The top court was hearing a plea filed by West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee member Ranajit Mukherjee who has sought directions to the Centre for framing of guidelines for Speakers for timely disposal of disqualification petitions. During the hearing, advocate Abhishek Jebaraj said the plea has been filed for framing of guidelines for deciding disqualification petitions within a fixed time frame.
We want a fixed time frame be fixed as Speakers have been sitting over disqualification petitions and are not taking timely decisions under the tenth schedule, he said. CJI Ramana said, I have already expressed my opinion in the Karnataka MLA case. This issue was raised in that case also and senior advocate Kapil Sibal had advanced his arguments on the same line. We have left the decision to be taken by the Parliament.
The bench asked the petitioner’s counsel whether have read the judgement. Jebaraj said that he has not gone through the verdict.
You read the verdict and then come back. We will hear the matter after two weeks, the bench said. On November 13, 2019, while dealing with the issue of disqualification of MLAs, the top court said the Speaker does not have the power to indicate as to how long a legislator would be disqualified or to bar him from contesting elections.
It was dealing with a decision of the Speaker by which MLAs were disqualified and barred from contesting any election to the current Assembly which included a by-election to be held for 15 seats in the state. The top court was referring to the then Karnataka Assembly Speaker R Ramesh Kumar’s decision to disqualify 17 legislators till the end of the current 15th Legislative Assembly’s term in 2023.
While the top court had upheld the disqualification, it had said, “…it is clear that the Speaker, in exercise of his powers under the Tenth Schedule, does not have the power to either indicate the period for which a person is disqualified, nor to bar someone from contesting elections”. The apex court had said that the role of the speaker was critical in maintaining the balance between democratic values and Constitutional considerations, but “there is a growing trend of Speakers acting against the constitutional duty of being neutral”.
The Constitutional responsibility endowed upon the Speaker has to be scrupulously followed and his political affiliations cannot come in the way of adjudication, it had said. Additionally, political parties are indulging in horse trading and corrupt practices, due to which the citizens are denied stable governments, it had said.
“In these circumstances, the Parliament is required to reconsider strengthening certain aspects of the Tenth Schedule, so that such undemocratic practices are discouraged,” the top court had said.