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Speaker clears air on verdict

Special Correspondent

K. R. Suresh Reddy defends his much-criticised verdict

Disqualification decision “one of a kind in the country”

HYDERABAD: Assembly Speaker K. R. Suresh Reddy has defended his much-criticised verdict disqualifying three rebel TRS MLAs and accepting the resignations of six others since it was “one of a kind in the country” of debarring defectors for reasons other than defying the party whip.

The threesome were debarred for “voluntarily giving up membership of the political party” under the provision 2 (1) (a) of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution relating to disqualification on the ground of defection. This provision has been rarely invoked to disqualify members compared to 2 (1) (b) that deals with violation of the party’s direction by voting or by abstaining inside the House.

Now, M. Satyanarayana Reddy, T. Jayaprakash Reddy and S. Bapu Rao attracted disqualification for signing the nomination papers of Kasani Gyaneswar in the Council election and not for voting for him since the ballots are cast in secrecy. “So far, there has been no clarity on the issue as to which actions attract the provisions of 2 (1) ( a). This verdict is, therefore, a trend-setter”, he said in an interview.

In fact, a sub-committee constituted by a Presiding Officers’ conference had urged the Government of India to clarify what actions constituted “voluntarily giving up membership” and its reply is awaited. He said he could recall only three instances, including a case where MLAs belonging to one party joined members of another party in petitioning the Governor, where 2 (1) (a) was invoked.

Mr. Suresh Reddy said that in proposing Mr. Gyaneswar’s name, the three MLAs (and the six others who escaped disqualification by resigning) had acted contrary to the party’s wishes of supporting the two official candidates. On the other hand, two Congress MLAs Kiran Kumar Reddy and M. Ranga Reddy, who proposed the names of other party members, did not attract disqualification as they acted in line with the party’s direction.

He recalled that TDP MP M. Jagannath was disqualified under 2 (1) (b), but A. Narendera of the TRS was not punished as the Lok Sabha Speaker was convinced that the party did not serve the whip properly.

Partisan manner

Responding to criticism that he had acted in a partisan manner by accepting the resignation of six rebel MLAs, he said there was no rule or convention to guide him. He was required to satisfy himself that the resignations were not tendered under duress and there were precedents for his action in the current Lok Sabha itself. “I cannot stop a member from resigning,” he added.

“In delivering the 17-page judgement, I have drawn from my own experience, besides interactions at international conferences and a thorough study of the anti-defection law,” he said.

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