NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought an explanation from the Tamil Nadu assembly Speaker for the nearly three-year delay in hearing pleas for disqualification of 11 MLAs of the O Pannerselvam faction of AIADMK, indicating renewed focus on partial actions of speakers given the recent adverse remarks on the conduct of Karnataka and Manipur speakers in proceedings under the anti-defection law.
A bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant were informed by senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for DMK’s R Sakkarpani, that petitions to disqualify 11 MLAs for defying the party whip and voting against the AIADMK faction led by chief minister E K Palaniswami on February 18, 2017, were filed with the Speaker on March 20, 2017. Sibal said the Speaker had not even issued notice on these petitions for nearly three years.
Appearing for the Pannerselvam faction of MLAs against whom disqualification petitions are pending, Mukul Rohatgi said the two factions had merged and Pannerselvam was now the deputy chief minister.
He said the judgment in the recent Manipur case by a three-judge SC bench headed by Justice R F Nariman fixing three-month time limit for Speaker to decide a disqualification petition was wrong as a two-judge bench, headed by the same judge, had earlier referred to a five-judge bench the question whether SC could issue a mandamus to the Speaker. “Can a three-judge bench erase a two-judge bench’s reference to a five-judge bench?” he asked.
The CJI-led bench said whatever be the legal position, “in our view, prima facie there is inaction on the part of the Speaker on proceeding with the petitions seeking disqualification of the MLAs. When a petition is filed before him (Speaker), he must take cognizance of it, which means he cannot remain inactive. We consider it appropriate to ask the Speaker to narrate the reasons for his inaction.”
Tamil Nadu advocate general Vijay Narayan attempted to explain the delay by telling the court that issues relating to the Pannerselvam faction was being examined first by the Election Commission and then by Madras High Court and the Speaker had decided to wait for the outcome of those proceedings.
The bench said, “Those difficulties do not exist now. We are asking when you (Speaker) are going to take cognizance of the petitions. We have full confidence in the Speaker that he can take appropriate action. What we want to know is why there was inaction for such a long period. We are asking when will you take action on the pending disqualification petitions.” The court sought answers from the AG by February 14.


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