For how long can an MLA be suspended?
- Twelve MLAs from Maharashtra's legislative assembly have just approached the Supreme Court to get their year-long suspension lifted.
- According to the Supreme Court, the ban for a full year is prima facie unlawful and has created a constitutional gap for these constituencies.
Suspension of MLAs
- The MLAs were suspended for misbehaving in the Assembly pertaining to the publication of OBC data.
- Suspension is being challenged primarily on the basis of a rejection of natural justice principles and a violation of established process.
- The 12 MLAs claim that they were not given a chance to submit their case and that the suspension breached their constitutional right to equality before the law under Article 14.
- According to Maharashtra Assembly Rule 53, The ""Speaker may direct any member who refuses to respect his decision, or whose conduct is, in his judgement, highly disorderly, to remove immediately from the Assembly"".
- The member must ""Absent himself for the remainder of the day's meeting,"".
- If a member is ordered to withdraw for the second time in the same session, the Speaker has the authority to order the member to leave ""for any duration not exceeding the remainder of the Session.""
Provisions for Suspension of a Member of Parliament
- The Lok Sabha's Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business call for the withdrawal of a member whose behaviour is ""grossly disruptive,"" as well as the suspension of a member who violates the House's rules or wilfully obstructs its business.
- According to these Rules, the maximum suspension is ""for five consecutive sittings or the balance of the session, whichever is less.""
- The Rajya Sabha's maximum suspension under Rules 255 and 256 is similarly limited to the balance of the session.
- State legislative assemblies and councils have similar rules, which stipulate a maximum suspension of not more than the remainder of the session.
Arguments by maharashtra Assembly
- Article 212: Under Article 212, the House had operated within its legislative competence, and courts do not have power to investigate legislative procedures.
- Article 212 (1) :""The validity of any proceedings in the Legislature of a State shall not be called into doubt on the ground of any purported irregularity of process"".
- Article 194: The state has also cited Article 194 on the House's powers and privileges, arguing that any member who violates these privileges can be suspended using the House's inherent powers.
- Rule 53 of the Assembly: It has denied that the ability to suspend a member can only be exercised.
Supreme Court’s Arguments
- Violation of the Constitution's Basic Structure: If the suspended MLAs' constituencies were unrepresented in the Assembly for a full year, the Constitution's basic structure would be violated.
- Constitutional Requirement: The bench cited Article 190 (4) of the Constitution, which states, ""If a member of a House of the Legislature of a State is absent from all sessions thereof for a period of sixty days without permission of the House, the House may proclaim his seat vacant.""
- Section 151(A) RPA Act 19551: ""A bye-election for filling any vacancy shall be held within a term of six months from the date of the occurrence of the vacancy"".
- This means that, with the exclusions listed in this section, no constituency can go longer than six months without a representation.
- The Supreme Court ruled that the one-year ban was prima facie unlawful since it exceeded the six-month restriction and amounted to ""not punishing the member, but punishing the constituency as a whole.""
- Intervention by the Supreme Court: The Supreme Court is set to rule on whether the judiciary has the authority to intervene in House proceedings.
- Constitutional experts, on the other hand, claim that the court has previously stated that the judiciary can interfere if the House acts in an illegal manner.