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SC pulls up TN Speaker, asks why no action taken on disqualification pleas against OPS, 10 other AIADMK MLAs for three years

Shruti Mahajan

The Supreme Court today pulled up the Tamil Nadu Assembly Speaker for delay in taking cognizance of the pleas to disqualify O Panneerselvam (OPS) and 10 other AIADMK MLAs for voting contrary to the Chief Whip’s directions during a trust vote held in February 2017.

Calling the three-year delay in the disqualification proceedings "unnecessary", Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, who was hearing the matter with Justices BR Gavai and Surya Kant, sought a reply from the Speaker to explain the delay within one week.

During the course of the hearing, Senior Counsel Kapil Sibal, representing the DMK party, pointed out before the Court that a recent judgement delivered by a Bench headed by Justice Rohinton Nariman had held that petitions concerning the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution (anti-defection law) ought to be decided by the Speaker within a reasonable period of time and setting the limit to three months.

Senior Counsel Mukul Rohatgi, representing OPS and the disqualified MLAs, opposed Sibal's submission to say that Justice Nariman's judgment was rendered only recently. Therefore, the Speaker of Tamil Nadu could not have been reprimanded based on the same.

Rohatgi also sought to point out "infirmities" in the judgment. However, the same was not entertained by the Court. In this regard, CJI Bobde said that the Court was not siting in appeal on Justice Nariman's judgment.

The Court proceeded to seek the Speaker's explanation over the inaction on these disqualification pleas.

In April 2018, a Division Bench of the Madras High Court had dismissed petitions filed protesting the Speaker’s apparent reluctance to disqualify OPS and the 10 other MLAs for their rebellion against the E Palanaswami led Government in February 2017.

A Bench of then Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Abdul Quddhose had held that to direct the Speaker to act against the 11 MLAs would amount to judicial overreach.

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