The Solicitor General of India, Tushar Mehta informed the Supreme Court of the decision of the Speaker of the Goa Legislative Assembly, Rajesh Patnekar to decide on the disqualification of the 10 Members of Legislative Assembly (MLA)s, who moved from the political party Congress to the political party BJP (Bhartiya Janata Party) in the month of July, 2019.
Such final order with respect to the petitions for disqualification will be passed by the 20th of April, so that the Supreme Court could hear the case on the 21st of April, before the retirement of the present Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde.
Girish Chodankar, the President of the political party Congress for the State of Goa sought from the Apex Court directions pertaining to expeditious decision by Rajesh Patnekar, the Speaker of the Vidhan Sabha, regarding the disqualification petitions filed against the 10 MLAs, who switched from the Congress to the BJP.
A three judge bench of the Supreme Court, led by CJI SA Bobde was hearing the plea by Goa Congress President Girish Chodankar, in which directions were sought to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly to dispose of with the final order related to the switch of the 10 MLAs from the Congress to the BJP in July 2019 expeditiously and decide on their disqualification.
Such switch of the MLAs from the Congress to the ruling party reduced the strength of the Congress members in the house to five from fifteen. The switch, in the opinion of the Congress members has amounted to a defection under the 10th schedule of the Constitution, as there was no merger of the original party.
According to the provisions of the Anti-defection law, as amended in 2004, when two-thirds
of the members of the legislature party concerned have agreed to such merger, when there have been no such merger of the original party, such members become eligible for disqualification. The amended law does not recognise in its provisions, a split in a legislature party.
The Members of Legislative Assembly who joined the ruling party BJP, thereby increasing their strength to 27 in the State Assembly are:
1. The then Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the Goa assembly, Congress’s Chandrakant Kavlekar,
2. MLA Nilkanth Halarnkar,
3. MLA Atanasio Monserrate,
4. MLA Jennifer Monserrate,
5. MLA Tony Fernandes,
6. MLA Filipe Neri Rodrigues,
7. MLA Clafasio Dias,
8. MLA Francisco Silveira,
9. MLA Isidore Fernandes, and
10. MLA Wilfred D’Sa.
The petition which claimed the disqualification of such MLAs and their defection before the Speaker was filed before the Apex Court by the President of the Congress Committee of Goa in 2019.
A Supreme Court bench led by the CJI SA Bobde had ordered the petitioner to enlist the matters to be considered and had allowed a time period of two weeks for such listing.
The court was consequently approached by Girish Chodankar, who claimed that such plea never made it to the final list of the Supreme Court Registry despite being considered to be heard in the tentative hearing list from the month of August to November 2020.
Initially, the Court had been informed by the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta of the Speaker’s intention to dispose of the matter by the 29th of April.
The matter has been throughout heard by the CJI Bobde, who is to retire on the 22nd of April, thus such date was found unacceptable to the Court.
The bench posed to SG Mehta the question “As Solicitor General you can ask him to dispose it sooner. Do you want a new Bench to hear the matter all over again?”
The SG, thereafter, informed the Court of the Speaker’s decision to pass such orders on the 20th of April, such that the present CJI could hear the case before his scheduled retirement on the 22nd.
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