New Delhi: In the interest of more fairness in the procedure, the Supreme Court on Tuesday held that the Parliament should think over having an independent and permanent body to decide disqualification petitions against MPs and MLAs, instead of the Speaker retaining exclusive powers.
A three-judge bench, headed by Justice Rohinton F Nariman, pointed out that it was high time that the Parliament should revisit the rationale in giving exclusive powers to the Speaker for deciding disqualification petitions.
The bench asked if the Speaker should alone be entrusted with decisions on disqualification petitions when he/she is still a member of a political party.
Pitching for either a permanent body or some other independent mechanism, the bench took into account certain recent cases in the top court and maintained that the issue of independence of Speaker is being raised time and again now.
The Court said MPs or MLAs shouldn't be allowed to continue even for a day if they have incurred disqualification for issues like anti-defection.
It was hearing a case relating to disqualification of Forest and Environment Minister Thounaojam Shyamkumar in Manipur who won on a ticket from Congress but later joined the BJP-led government in the state.
Two Congress MLAs had petitioned the tribunal of the Speaker but it was not decided for too long. When the MLAs moved the High Court, it passed adverse comments on the Speaker's action but refrained from deciding on the disqualification for want of jurisdiction under the anti-defection laws.
The Supreme Court, in its judgment on Monday, held that the Speaker can't sit on a disqualification petition indefinitely and that a prompt decision by the Speaker, within a reasonable time, is a must. The bench said that the Speaker should preferably decide disqualification petitions within three months.
In the Manipur case, the bench has now asked the Speaker to decide disqualification petitions by the Congress MLA within 4 weeks, and added the MLAs could come back to the court if a decision isn't taken.
The Supreme Court has recently also dealt with the Karnataka's case where several rebel MLAs from Congress and JDS had come complaining that the Speaker was not accepting their resignation. Subsequently, they also challenged their disqualification by the Speaker.