Supreme Court reserves verdict in U.P. MLAs case

Legal Correspondent

Bench declines to pass interim order

Split need not be one-time event: MLAsSpeaker's decision should not be interfered with

New Delhi: A five-Judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved its verdict on a batch of special leave petitions filed by Uttar Pradesh MLAs against a judgment of the Allahabad High Court quashing the orders passed by the Speaker recognising the merger of the Loktantrik Bahujan Dal party with the Samajwadi Party.

A Bench, comprising Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Justices H.K. Sema, A.R. Lakshmanan, P.K. Balasubramanyan and D.K. Jain, reserved verdict after marathon arguments.

It declined to pass any interim order on a plea that the Assembly session was scheduled to begin on January 18 and the whole purpose would be lost if the MLAs who defected were allowed to sit as a separate group.

It was argued that since the judgment would have a bearing on the future of the Mulayam Singh Yadav Government, at least an interim order should be passed.

Court directive

The apex court in March 2006 directed the 37 MLAs to sit as a separate group till the matter was disposed of. Five MLAs, who resigned from the Ministry and the post of chairmen of various boards (subsequent to the High Court order) and who decided to function as BSP MLAs, were disqualified by the Speaker.

They also moved the apex court against the Speaker's order and they too were allowed to sit as a separate group.

Initially, the strength of the breakaway group was only 13 and the BSP filed a petition before the Speaker seeking their disqualification but he kept the issue pending till the strength of the breakaway group went up to 37. Thereafter, the Speaker, while declining to disqualify the 13 MLAs, passed two orders recognising the breakaway group as LBD and their merger with the Samajwadi party on the same day.

The High Court quashed these orders and the SLPS are directed against this judgment.

Cumulative defections

On behalf of the 32 MLAs it was argued that the split need not be a one-time event and even cumulative defections could culminate in a split. The Speaker's decision to recognise the split and the subsequent merger should not be interfered with.

The five MLAs argued that they had only returned to the parent party after the High Court verdict.

On behalf the BSP, it was argued that the Speaker deliberately kept the entire issue pending till the strength of the breakaway group went up to 37. Since 13 MLAs did not form one third of the MLAs who defected they ought to have been disqualified and the Speaker's action in allowing the split to take place cumulatively was not permissible under the anti-defection law. As a result of the Speaker's mala fide action in collusion with the Government all the defecting MLAs were made either Ministers or chairmen of various State boards.

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