Defectors in Telangana in Trishanku’s Heaven

"The absurdity of it all is the induction of a TDP MLA Talasani Srinivas Yadav as a Cabinet Minister in the Telangana government." Yadav in a rally in Hyderabad ahead of his induction into the State Cabinet. Photo: Mohammed Yousuf  

Despite the Supreme Court holding that the powers of the Speaker are not supreme and are subject to judicial scrutiny, the discretion exercised by presiding officers, especially in Legislative Assemblies, on deciding issues relating to Anti-Defection Act continues to be a subject of heated debate.

An incongruous situation has arisen in Telangana with the state Legislative Assembly Speaker, S. Madhusudhana Chary, sitting on the resignation of 11 members elected on the party symbol of Telugu Desam, Congress and YSR Congress, thus enabling them to continue as members of the Assembly. Ironically, all the MLAs formally joined the ruling TRS amid great fanfare; one of them has even been inducted as a Minister.

The scenario makes a mockery of the outcome of the May 2014 Assembly election and has been conveniently picked up by the Opposition parties to take a swipe at the ruling party periodically. But the TRS is least embarrassed leave alone perturbed. In an interview to The Hindu in the last week of May the State Chief Minister and the ruling party chief K. Chandrashekar Rao dismissed it as much ado about nothing.

He cited several cases of defections to the ruling Telugu Desam in the neighbouring State of Andhra Pradesh implying that only those who have not sinned should cast the first stone. The Congress party fares no better in this respect as it has been guilty on this count umpteen times.

For instance, the party leadership maintained an inexplicable silence when the then Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar sat on the resignations of several of its party MPs from AP in protest against the proposed bifurcation of the State. So the protestations of political leaders count for nothing.

The scenario as it exists in the Telangana Assembly presents an opportunity for a more rigorous debate on the difference made by the Anti-Defection Act in general and the powers of the Speaker in particular.

In the Assembly election held in the State along with the general elections in May last year, TRS secured a slender majority after bagging 63 seats in the 119-member Telangana Assembly. The Congress came a poor second with 21 seats, followed by TDP with 15.

However, in no time the TRS strength in the Assembly increased to 76 with four Congress, five TDP, two YSR Congress and two BSP legislators crossing over to the pink party. Even in the Legislative Council, nine Congress members including the Deputy Chairman and six TDP legislators switched their loyalties enabling the TRS to reach the magic simple majority in the Upper House.

As the Speaker of the Assembly and the presiding officer of the Legislative Council sit on the resignations and petitions from the Opposition, the matter has reached the Hyderabad High Court. A division bench of the Hyderabad High Court, which is yet to make a final determination on the subject, has observed that it cannot direct the Speaker to expedite hearing, but can only request him.

The absurdity of it all is the induction of a TDP MLA Talasani Srinivas Yadav as a Cabinet Minister in the Telangana Government soon after he switched over. Mr. Yadav, who had been admitted into TRS on October 29, insists that he had submitted his resignation as MLA to the Speaker on December 16, a few hours prior to his induction in the TRS Cabinet.

In response to a petition filed by the Congress under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the Speaker’s office stated that it was not in receipt of any such letter. The Congress leaders have noted that the Governor did not even make an attempt to verify and seek confirmation whether Mr. Srinivas Yadav had actually tendered his resignation or not. Under the Constitution the Governor is duty bound to be act on the aid and advice of council of ministers.

The Congress and the TDP delegations had separately met President Pranab Mukherjee during his recent visit to Hyderabad urging him to intervene and direct the state executive, the Speaker of Telangana Assembly and the Governor of Telangana to implement the provisions of the anti-defection law, safeguard the Indian Constitution and help to restore the spirit of democracy.

In their memorandum submitted to the President, the Congress leaders cited the judgment of the Supreme Court in Rajendra Singh Rana Vs Swami Prasad (AIR 2007 Supreme Court 1305) which states “...The failure on part of the Speaker to decide the application seeking a disqualification cannot be said to be merely in the realm of the procedure. It goes against the rules framed in that behalf and the procedure that he was expected to follow”.

Jandhyala Ravi Shankar was former Legal Advisor to AP Legislature for a decade. He is presently appearing on behalf of the Congress, the TDP and the YSR Congress in the case filed in the High Court of Judicature of Hyderabad to disqualify the defectors. He quoted two separate judgements given by the Punjab and Haryana High Court and the Odisha High Court in the last two years, which were upheld by the Supreme Court too.

He said in the Punjab and Haryana High Court ruling, the Speaker of Haryana Assembly was given four months’ time to dispose of the disqualification petition against the defectors while the Odisha HC said it should be disposed of in 90 days.

Clearly, in Telangana, the disqualification issue is being dealt with in a politically partisan way.

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Printable version | Nov 30, 2021 9:38:28 PM |

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