State assembly speaker GS Kunjwal has said he has taken cognisance of the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) memorandum demanding cancellation of Independent MLA HC Durgapal’s membership of the House after he rejoined the ruling Congress. He, however, said he would go strictly by the rule book on the issue.
“The issue is before us. We are consulting legal experts and will hear all parties concerned. A verdict on the issue will, however, be given strictly as per rules,” the Speaker said Friday.
He was reacting to the BJP’s demand for cancellation of the Independent MLA’s membership of the House on legal ground. Durgapal, who quit the Congress after being denied a party ticket during the 2012 assembly polls, won the election from the Lalkuan assembly seat as an Independent.
According to speaker, Durgapal would continue to be counted as one of the members of the seven-member Progressive Democratic Front (PDF), an ally of the Harish Rawat-led Congress government even after rejoining the ruling party. “That means he (Durgapal) will not be counted as a Congress member within the House,” he said.
The BJP has claimed that Durgapal’s membership of the House ‘stands cancelled’ after he rejoined the Congress. “Had the Independent MLA joined the Congress along with two-third members of the PDF, as per the provisions of the anti-defection law it would be a legally justified step,” said state BJP president Tirath Singh Rawat. “But he (Durgapal) alone joined the Congress, which was illegal…Therefore, his membership of the House stands cancelled.”
Rawat said that his party (BJP) would move the high court if it failed to get justice from the Speaker. “We are waiting for the Chair to pronounce its verdict on the issue of cancellation of the Independent MLA’s membership of the House. However, if it (verdict) is not favourable, our party will move the high court on the issue,” he added.
Rawat claimed that the Independent MLA’s membership of the House could be challenged in the court of law, as per the provisions of the anti-defection law. “His (Independent MLA) membership of the House can be challenged in the court because he has taken the primary membership of the ruling Congress,” he said.
The Speaker, however, maintained that the BJP, for now, wouldn’t be able to move the court against the Independent MLA’s membership of the House. “Legally, they (BJP) can’t move the court on the membership issue as long as it is pending with the Chair (Speaker) and a verdict is not pronounced on the issue,” he said. Kunjwal, however, clarified that he wouldn’t be able to deliver a verdict on the issue until the State Congress president and the Leader of the House (chief minister) would give him in writing that the Independent MLA had rejoined their party (Congress).
The ruling Congress said whatever verdict the Speaker would deliver on the issue would be acceptable to it. “We did nothing illegal and we will accept the Speaker’s verdict on the issue,” state Congress spokesperson and the CM’s media in-charge Surendra Kumar said. He said there was “no illegality in Durgapalji having rejoined” the Congress.