The Punjab and Haryana High Court Monday directed the Haryana assembly speaker to decide within four months on the disqualification of five legislators who defected. Justice Ajay Tiwari of the high court issued the directive to assembly Speaker Harmohinder Singh Chatha on the petition of the Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC), which sought disqualification of five of its legislators who defected to the ruling Congress party in November last year.
Counsel for the speaker as well as the five lawmakers contested the high court ruling, and contended that the high court had no jusrisdiction over the speaker’s office.
Justice Tiwari, however, observed that “nobody is above law” and that the defection of the five lawmakers had given the Bhoopinder Singh Hooda government legitimacy.
Opposition HJC president Kuldeep Bishnoi had filed a petition in the high court demanding disqualification of the five legislators, who claimed they had “merged” their group with the ruling Congress. The move helped the Hooda government gain simple majority in the assembly.
The five legislators were Sat Pal Sangwan, Vinod Bhayana, Narender Singh, Zile Singh and Dharam Singh. They joined the Congress Nov 9 last year, only days after the assembly election results were declared and the Congress failed to get simple majority on its own.
Senior advocate Satya Pal Jain, appearing for Bishnoi, told the high court that though the petition for disqualification of the five legislators was submitted Dec 16, the speaker was taking long time to give his decision.
“The speaker failed even to get reply from these five MLAs over one year, though the anti-defection rules stipulated that the reply was to be filed within seven days,” Jain pointed out.
Bishnoi challenged the five MLAs’ contention that their group “merged” with the Congress, saying this was done without his consent as the HJC president alone had the power to merge the party with another.
Bishnoi later moved the high court, alleging malafide against the speaker and alleged the delay was intentional. He said Chatha was adjourning the matter on one pretext or the other.
Chatha’s counsel contended Monday that the court did not have jurisdiction over the issue and cannot interfere with the functioning of the speaker.
Counsel for the five MLAs also said that the court had no power to give direction to the speaker to decide the case within any particular time.
However, the high court observed that no one was above the law. It said that the defection by the legislators had given legitimacy to the Hooda government and had they not joined, the government may not have been formed.