Sword of Damocles hangs over accused legislator

  • Gaurav Bisht, Hindustan Times, Shimla
  • Updated: Aug 01, 2014 12:42 IST

As both the ruling Congress and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prepare for the coming assembly session, the sword of Damocles continues to hang over Doon legislator Ram Kumar Chaudhary (Cong) who is behind the bars and has been unable to attend the House proceedings ever since he was elected to the Vidhan Sabha.

The monsoon session of the assembly, commencing on August 6, holds much significance for Ram Kumar Chaudhary, who is currently lodged in the central jail, Ambala, Charged for murdering a young girl, Chaudhary has not been able to attend a single assembly session from the time he was elected to Vidhan Sabha in December 2012.

Constitutional provisions make it mandatory for a legislator to attend minimum 60 sittings in the House.

So far, the assembly has completed 42 sittings. If he is unable to attend the monsoon session this time, Chaudhary faces the spectre of being disqualified from the assembly.

“There are provisions that assembly could exonerate the legislator who has not been able to attend the session due to some or the other reason,” a Vidhan Sabha official told HT.

The Punjab and Haryana high court had earlier dismissed Chaudhary’s petition seeking release for attending the budget session that commenced on February 3 and ended on February 21.

The high court at that time had observed that it will be inappropriate to exercise the discretion under constitutional provisions to grant permission to a person who is accused of a serious offence to attend the assembly session solely on the basis that he enjoys an exclusive privilege to participate in the proceedings of the House to meet the constitutional obligation.

Dissmissing his plea, the high court maintained that it could not exercise the power under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) to permit members of the legislative assembly or Parliament in custody to attend the session.

In his petition, the Doon legislator had pleaded that he had a right to attend the fifth session. He had further argued that he was compelled to stay absent during the earlier four sessions. Referring to constitutional provisions, Chaudhary had contended that the House might declare the seat vacant on account of his absence for more than 60 days without permission. However, the assembly had exempted him from attending the session.

It is reliably lear nt that Chaudhary will again move an application seeking exemption from attending the monsoon session. “Assembly as a whole can decide to exempt the legislator. If we receive an application from Chaudhary, it would be placed before the house,” the Vidhan Sabha official said.

Chaudhary is accused of murdering Jyoti, a 24-year-old Dalit woman who was found dead on a road in sector 21 in Panchkula on November 22, 2012.

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