Suspension of MLAs


    In News

    • Recently, the Supreme Court quashed a one-year suspension of 12 Maharashtra BJP MLAs.


    • They were suspended after the government accused them of “misbehaving” with the presiding officer.
    • They were suspended for a year for, as  called, “grossly disorderly conduct” in the House.

    Reasons given by the Court for Quashing

    • Irrational act: 
      • It was an irrational and unconstitutional Act and traversed beyond the powers of Assembly.
    • Legality: 
      • The court said it was illegal to suspend a sitting legislator beyond the ongoing session.
    • Democratic set up:
      • It would impact the democratic set-up, leave constituencies unrepresented and help “thin majority” governments manipulate numbers.
    • Opposition participation:
      • The court held that the such suspensions would cripple the Opposition’s ability to effectively participate in the discussion/debate in the House owing to the constant fear of its members being suspended for a longer period. 
    • De facto vacancy:
      • Suspension for a period of one year would assume the character of punitive and punishment worse than expulsion. Suspension for long period and beyond the session has the effect of creating a de facto vacancy though not a de jure vacancy
    • Worse than disqualification:
      • The Bench had orally agreed during the hearing that prolonged suspension was worse than disqualification from the House.
    • Article 190(4):
      • It says, “If for a period of sixty days a member of a House of the Legislature of a State is without permission of the House absent from all meetings thereof, the House may declare his seat vacant.”
    • Section 151 (A) of The Representation of the People Act, 1951:
      • A bye-election for filling any vacancy in the House shall be held within a period of six months from the date of the occurrence of the vacancy. 
      • This means that barring exceptions specified under this section, no constituency can remain without a representative for more than six months.

    Arguments of Suspended MLAs

    • Violation of Principle of Natural Justice:
      • There was a gross violation of the principles of natural justice by not allowing the suspended MLAs an opportunity to be heard. 
      • The 12 legislators were entitled to all the benefits of members of the Assembly.
    • Article 14:
      • The suspension violated their fundamental right to equality before law under Article 14 of the Constitution. 
      • They have also submitted that they were not given access to video of the proceedings of the House, and it was not clear how they had been identified in the large crowd that had gathered in the chamber.
    • Rule 53 of Maharashtra Assembly:
      • The MLAs have also contended that under Rule 53 of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Rules, the power to suspend can only be exercised by the Speaker, and it cannot be put to vote in a resolution as was done in this case.
      • Rule 53 states that the “Speaker may direct any member who refuses to obey his decision, or whose conduct is, in his opinion, grossly disorderly, to withdraw immediately from the Assembly”. 
      • The member must “absent himself during the remainder of the day’s meeting”.
      • Should any member be ordered to withdraw for a second time in the same session, the Speaker may direct the member to absent himself “for any period not longer than the remainder of the Session”.

    Arguments of Maharashtra Assembly

    • Article 212(1):
      • It states that “The validity of any proceedings in the Legislature of a State shall not be called in question on the ground of any alleged irregularity of procedure”.
    • Article 194:
      • Any member who transgresses the privileges provided can be suspended through the inherent powers of the House.

    Rules for Suspension

    • Rules 373, 374, and 374A of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha provide for the withdrawal of a member whose conduct is “grossly disorderly”, and suspension of one who abuses the rules of the House or willfully obstructs its business.
    • Maximum suspension:
      • The maximum suspension as per these Rules is “for five consecutive sittings or the remainder of the session, whichever is less”.
        • The maximum suspension for Rajya Sabha under Rules 255 and 256 also does not exceed the remainder of the session. 
        • Several recent suspensions of members have not continued beyond the session.
        • Similar Rules also are in place for state legislative assemblies and councils which prescribe a maximum suspension not exceeding the remainder of the session.

    Way Ahead

    • The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the question of whether the judiciary can intervene in the proceedings of the House. 
    • Constitutional experts, however, say that the court has clarified in previous rulings that the judiciary can intervene in case of an unconstitutional act done by the House.

    Source: TH