The Goa Congress on Wednesday said the Supreme Court's ruling on powers of the House Speaker holds significance for the state, where a petition seeking disqualification of 10 party MLAs who joined the BJP is pending before the Assembly Speaker since August 2019. Goa Congress president Girish Chodankar said in light of the ruling, the state Assembly Speaker should decide on the party's petition, seeking disqualification of the 10 MLAs, without any further delay.
In a path-breaking ruling on Tuesday, the SC said Parliament should "rethink" whether the Speaker of a House should continue to have powers to disqualify lawmakers as such a functionary "belongs to a particular political party". Parliament may seriously consider amending the Constitution to substitute Speaker of the Lok Sabha and Assemblies as arbiter of disqualification issues with "a permanent Tribunal headed by a retired Supreme Court Judge or a retired Chief Justice of a High Court" or some other mechanism to ensure swift and impartial decisions, it said.
In July 2019, ten of the 15 Congress MLAs in Goa quit the party, formed a separate group and merged it with the BJP, increasing the ruling party's strength in the 40-member Assembly to 27. Some of them became ministers in the Pramod Sawant-led cabinet. Talking to reporters, Chodankar said the disqualification petition filed against the 10 MLAs by the opposition party is pending before Assembly Speaker Rajesh Patnekar since August 2019.
"Since then only once, on September 23, 2019, the Speaker called our lawyer Abhijit Gosavi for hearing before him. After that there has been no progress in the disqualification case," he said.
Chodankar said in the petition he had challenged the merger of the Congress group comprising the ten MLAs with the BJP as there was no split in the party or its Goa unit.
"We had filed the disqualification petition expecting quick verdict from the Speaker," the Congress leader said.
He said the SC, in its ruling related to the Manipur Assembly Speaker, has observed that disqualification petitions should be decided within a certain time-frame.
"We also appeal to the Goa Legislative Assembly Speaker to decide on our petition within a time-frame. Since no progress was made in the case, in December 2019 we filed a reminder before the Speaker, but nothing happened since then.
"Whether he disqualifies (the MLAs in question) or not, it is up to him, but he has to give the decision within a certain time-frame, Chodankar said.
He said all the 10 MLAs are enjoying public positions despite a disqualification petition pending against them. On Tuesday, a bench headed by Justice R F Nariman took note of the role played by Speakers and inordinate delays in deciding pleas for disqualification of lawmakers. The bench asked the Manipur Assembly Speaker to decide within four weeks the plea of a Congress leader seeking disqualification of BJP lawmaker and Manipur Forest Minister Th Shyamkumar.