The Supreme Court on Monday questioned the bonafides of Goa Speaker Pratapsingh Rane in restraining two Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party MLAs from casting their vote during the July 30 trial of strength and sought to know why they were not heard before the interim order.
Terming the Speaker's conduct as "strange", a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan said, "When notice is issued to the complainant, it could have been issued to the two MGP MLAs as well. We can appreciate if you issued notice and the MLAs sought time and then you proceeded ex-parte."
The court wondered how the Speaker could restrain the two MLAs from voting on the allegation of a third party that they had ceased to be members of the MGP Legislature Party and that too without asking the Party itself about their position. "How would the third party know if an MLA is still with the party or not?" it asked.
The bench reserved its verdict on the petitions filed by MGP MLAs Sudin Dhavlikar and Dipak Dhavilkar and the Goa Democratic Alliance seeking setting aside of Rane's order and a fresh trial of strength.
The court said a Speaker acts like a tribunal while conducting proceedings under the 10th Schedule of the Constitution. "You call for records from one party... issue notice to the complainant but don't give notice to the MLAs sought to be disqualified….Even the courts issue notice."
Senior counsel Soli Sorabjee and Mukul Rohtagi had on behalf of the petitioners alleged that the Speaker acted in an arbitrary manner by not giving notice to the MLAs and that his interim order was worse than actual disqualification.
On behalf of Rane, senior counsel TR Andhyarujina submitted that the Speaker had the power to pass ex-parte interim order and he took the decision because he was of the prima facie view that the two MLAs had incurred disqualification.
In a small assembly of 39 members with "floating loyalty", it was difficult to give notice to them as two-three days' delay would have changed the composition of the House, he said.
Andhyarujina tried to impress upon the court by saying that much depended on the fact situation and time was essence of the matter. He informed that the Speaker was scheduled to further hear the case on Thursday.