Stating that the Supreme Court order quashing the suspension of 12 Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLAs is against the constitutional framework of the legislature, executive, and judiciary, and that the apex court has overstepped the powers of the legislature, the Maharashtra government has sought President Ram Nath Kovind’s intervention in the matter. The President has been urged to exercise his power under Article 143 of the Constitution to request the SC to refer the judgement for a judicial review.
Legislative Council chairman Ramraje Nimbalkar, deputy chairman Neelam Gorhe, and deputy speaker of Assembly Narahri Zirwal met the President at Raj Bhavan on Friday.
Addressing a press conference at Vidhan Bhavan, NImbalkar said the ruling was not in accordance with Article 190 and 194 and 212 of the Constitution.
“The order was against the basic structure of the Constitution laid down in the Keshavanand Bharati case. Such a judgement [quashing of suspension] by the SC overstepping the powers of the legislature is a one-off in the history of the country, according to my knowledge,” he said.
Nimbalkar said by honouring the SC order to avoid any bitterness and clashes, the suspended lawmakers have been allowed to enter the legislature premises and their legislative rights have been restored. “They will also be allowed to attend the ensuing budget session.”
The SC on January 28 revoked the one-year suspension of the BJP legislators, announced on July 5 last year, terming the suspension irrational, unconstitutional, and traversing beyond the powers of the Assembly. One of the suspended MLAs, Ashish Shelar, had moved the apex court. The other MLAs are Sanjay Kute, Girish Mahajan, Atul Bhatkhalkar, Harish Pimple, Abhimanyu Pawar, Jaikumar Rawal, Yogesh Sagar, Narayan Kuche, Parag Alwani, Ram Satpute, and Bunty Bhagadiya.
Nimbalkar said the President assured them to look into the matter. “He is well-versed with the judgement and has assured us to look into it by checking the merit. We are also writing to the speaker of the Lok Sabha and presiding officers of the Houses of all the states with a request to convene a meeting to deliberate upon the legislative powers as the judgement will be applicable to parliament and state legislatures,” he said.
“This judgement cuts the powers and privileges of the Assembly, Council as well as both the Houses of parliament to regulate the procedures and business. This is not only akin to redrafting the constitutional provisions but is also tantamount to committing an act which is clearly disallowed by the makers of the Constitution,” a letter submitted to the President said.
The letter also said, “The SC judgement appears to create an impression of having endeavoured to curtail the capacity of legislature to employ such penal powers.”
Constitutional expert Ulhas Bapat, however, said the judgement does not overstep the powers of legislature. “There is separation of powers of the legislature, executive and judiciary, and it is implied that these organs should not encroach upon the powers of other organs. The suspension of the MLAs is in the domain of the legislature and the speaker of the Assembly, but the suspension of the 12 MLAs for one year lacked reasonableness which is the key feature of the Constitution.”
Bapat added that the suspension for one day, a week, or a session could be reasonable, but the year-long suspension amounts to disqualification. “By quashing the suspension, the SC has taken corrective steps by interpreting the constitutional framework in the right manner.”
Shelar said the Mharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) leaders have been blaming the SC for its order, but they have conveniently forgotten that they too had moved the court for the election of the Assembly speaker after the formation of the government in November 2019.
“Instead of following the SC judgement, they have claimed it to be an unprecedented order by the court in the last 70 years. The verdict is against the autocratic style of working of the MVA government,” he said.