SC agrees to examine DMK’s petition

The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to examine a petition filed by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) against the Tamil Nadu Assembly Speaker for allegedly delaying a decision on the anti-defection proceedings against 11 AIADMK MLAs who voted against the Edappadi Palaniswami government in a confidence motion in 2017.

A Bench, led by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde, issued notice and posted the case for hearing after four weeks.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal and advocate Amit Anand Tiwari, for the DMK, said the Speaker was deliberately trying to delay his decision till the government tenure is over. Mr. Sibal sought an early hearing, possibly in two weeks. Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, for the respondents, objected to the issuance of notice.

“We have issued notice without asking you,” Chief Justice Bobde retorted to the objection.

The Opposition party, through its leader R. Sakkarapani, alleged that Speaker P. Dhanapal was sitting on the disqualification proceedings for three years and would continue to do so till the government completes its term. The DMK said it took the Speaker three years and an intervention by the Supreme Court to even issue notice to the MLAs in February 2020.

The party referred to how the Supreme Court had recently used its extraordinary powers under Article 142 to strip Manipur Minister T. Shyamkumar of his office and banned him from entering the State Assembly after the Speaker continued to delay a decision on his disqualification for defection under the Tenth Schedule.

The case, titled Keisham Meghchandra Singh versus Manipur Speaker, had eventually led to the disqualification of Mr. Shyamkumar, who after contesting on a Congress party ticket, switched sides to favour the BJP.

In its decision, the Supreme Court Bench led by Justice Rohinton Nariman had held that Speakers should decide disqualification pleas within a reasonable period of three months.

The DMK said the judgment in the Manipur case should apply to the Tamil Nadu Speaker. In February, the case against the T.N. Speaker’s inaction was closed after Advocate General for the State informed a Bench led by the Chief Justice of India that the Speaker had issued notice to the 11 MLAs under the scanner.

However, the top court had not given the Speaker any deadline to decide the question of their disqualification. The CJI had left it to the Speaker’s discretion to “take a decision in accordance with the law”.

The Opposition party said three months have lapsed since the apex court asked the Speaker to decide and no action has been taken.

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