The Supreme Court was Wednesday told that Speaker of Goa Legislative Assembly would consider on February 26 the petition filed by a Congress leader seeking disqualification of 10 MLAs, who had joined BJP in July 2019. The submission in this regard was made by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the Assembly Speaker.
Tushar Mehta, Solicitor General appearing for the Respondent(s), states that the disqualification petition(s) has been listed by the Respondent – the Speaker Goa State Legislative Assembly, for disposal on February 26, 2021. List these matters in the first week of March, said a bench comprising Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, in its order. We need not hold out hands because they have been kept for hearing. We are saying disposal in the order, the bench orally observed, when Mehta said that disqualification petition would be heard on February 26.
The apex court was hearing a plea of Congress leader Girish Chodankar who has claimed that in July 2019 the 10 MLAs, claiming to constitute two-third of the Congress party in the Assembly, "decided to merge the said legislature party with the BJP" and communicated that to the Speaker. The Speaker took note of the "alleged merger of INC's (Indian National Congress) legislative party in the Goa legislative Assembly, and allotted these ten MLA's seats in the Assembly along with the members of the BJP", the plea has said.
It has said that nine out of these 10 had contested as Congress candidates and were elected as MLAs in the 2017 Assembly elections, while one was elected MLA in the 2019 Assembly bye-election. Chodankar has sought directions to restrain the 10 MLAs from participating in Assembly proceedings during pendency of the disqualification petition.
The plea has also sought the apex court's direction to restrain three MLAs — Chandrakant Kavalekar, Jennifer Monserrate and Filipe Rodrigues — from functioning as ministers in Goa during the pendency of disqualification petition. The top court had earlier sought responses from the Speaker's office as well as the 10 MLAs on the plea of Chodankar, the then Goa Pradesh Congress Committee chief. He later resigned from the post.
The Congress leader had last month urged the apex court to direct the Assembly Speaker to decide his plea seeking disqualification of these 10 MLAs. He had said that disqualification petition was filed in August 2019 and one-and-half year has gone by but decision has not been taken on it.
Chodankar said he had filed the disqualification petition on August 8, 2019 before the Speaker and had contended that these MLAs "had ex-facie incurred disqualification under Article 191(2) of the Constitution, read with para 2 of the Tenth Schedule, and are liable to be disqualified as member of the Legislative Assembly". The petitioner has said the matter was heard on February 13, 2020 but he has neither received any communication from the office of Speaker nor has he been intimated of any order being passed on the disqualification petition.
Referring to an apex court judgement, the plea said the Speaker is required to decide a petition of this nature "within a reasonable period of time, and in any case, absent exceptional circumstances, within a period of 3 months".