|Setback to Mulayam Singh Government|
NEW DELHI : In a setback to the Mulayam Singh Government in Uttar Pradesh, the Supreme Court on Wednesday disqualified 13 MLAs, who originally belonged to the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) but crossed the floor and later formed the Loktantrik Bahujan Dal with the defection of 24 other MLAs.
A Constitution Bench comprising Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justices H.K. Sema, A.R. Lakshmanan, P.K. Balasubramanyan and D.K. Jain, in a unanimous verdict, held that the "split" under the (earlier) anti-defection law was a one-time affair and not a continuous process as claimed by the splinter group.
The Bench was, however, silent on the fate of the 24 MLAs who defected subsequently.
It dismissed the special leave petitions filed by all 37 MLAs and upheld the Allahabad High Court decision. The High Court had set aside the Speaker's decision recognising the split and the merger, and asked him to decide the question of disqualification of the 13 MLAs but no direction was given in respect of the other 24 members.
The Bench also allowed a writ petition filed by Swami Prasad Maurya, leader of the BSP Legislature Party, seeking the disqualification of the 13 MLAs who defected first.
The apex court in March 2006 directed the 37 MLAs to sit as a separate group until the matter was disposed of. Five members, who resigned from the Ministry and as chairmen of boards (subsequent to the High Court order, they decided to function as BSP MLAs), were disqualified by the Speaker. They also moved the apex court against the Speaker's order and they were allowed to sit as a separate group.
Initially, the strength of the breakaway group was only 13 and BSP filed a petition before the Speaker seeking their disqualification.
But he kept the entire issue pending until the strength of the breakaway group went up to 37, to become one-third of the BSP strength of 109.
Thereafter, the Speaker, while declining to disqualify the 13 MLAs, passed two orders recognising the breakaway group as LBD and also their merger with the Samajwadi Party the same day.
The Bench said: "The Speaker totally misdirected himself in purporting to answer the claim of the 37 MLAs that there has been a split in the party even while leaving open the question of disqualification raised before him by way of an application. This failure on the part of the Speaker to decide the application cannot be said to be merely in the realm of procedure. It goes against the very constitutional scheme of adjudication contemplated by the Tenth Schedule read in the context of Articles 102 and 191 of the Constitution."
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