WITHIN DAYS of a Constitution bench ruling that MLAs voting against the party whip in Rajya Sabha polls cannot be disqualified, four Samajwadi Party legislators on Friday moved the Supreme Court against the UP speaker's decision to disqualify them under the anti-defection law. The MLAs — Omvati Devi, Ratan Lal Ahirwar, Sunder Lal and Kalyan Singh Dohre — were disqualified by UP assembly speaker Mata Prasad on August 19 for violating the party whip in the March Rajya Sabha polls by casting votes in favour of BSP candidates.
Their petition was mentioned before a three-judge bench — headed by Chief Justice Y.K. Sabharwal — by counsel Shail Dwivedi. But the court refused to give an early hearing and the matter will now be heard in the due course. On August 22, a five-judge Constitution bench had ruled that MLAs voting against the party whip in RS elections cannot be disqualified from membership of the House under the anti-defection law.
The bench had also upheld the amendments to electoral laws, doing away with the domicile requirement and secret ballot for RS elections. On August 28, the HT reported that MLAs defying party whip in electing state representatives to the Rajya Sabha would be spared the axe under the anti-defection law.
“An elected MLA would not face any disqualification from the membership of the House for voting in a particular manner. He may at the most attract action from the political party to which he belongs,” the bench held in its 317-page judgment.
The court drew a distinction between the exercise of franchise by an elected MLA in his/her capacity of being a member of an electoral college and legislative proceedings.
“The proceedings concerning election under Article 80 are not proceedings of the ‘House of the Legislature of State’ within the meaning of Article 194” of the Constitution, said the bench. “It is the elected members the legislative assembly who constitute, under Article 80, the Electoral College for electing the representatives of the state to fill the seats allocated to that state in the Council of States. It’s noteworthy that it is not the entire legislative assembly that becomes the Electoral College but only the specified category of members thereof.”