In what can be considered as a landmark order, the Supreme Court on Wednesday restrained BJP’s Thounaojam Shyamkumar Singh from entering the Legislative Assembly in Manipur and also ceased his ministership in the Cabinet with immediate effect.
The order passed by a bench of Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman and Justice S. Ravindra Bhat came after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta sought time from the Court on behalf of the Speaker of the Manipur Assembly, stating that by March 28, the Speaker would definitely take a decision on Shyamkumar’s disqualification.
In January, the Supreme Court had ordered the Speaker of the Assembly to decide the disqualification applications filed against Thounaojam Shyamkumar within four weeks. Thirteen disqualification petitions had been pending before the Speaker from as early as April 2017. Soon after the Supreme Court judgment, the Speaker had approached the top court asking for eight more weeks to decide on the complaints. In response, cross-appeals had also been filed asking the Court to step in and take charge instead.
On March 4 when the fresh pleas were considered by the bench, the Counsel for the Speaker told the Supreme Court that a decision will be taken within ten days. On Wednesday, however, when the case was called out, the Solicitor General asked for time till March 28. “March 28 has been notified for pronouncement of judgment by the Speaker,” Mehta said.
The bench, however, put its foot down and decided to take matters into its own hands. Not only was Thounaojam Shyamkumar removed as a Minister in the Cabinet, but the Court also restrained him from entering the Legislative Assembly.
This order from the Supreme Court is one of the few cases where the principle of Separation of Powers between different arms of democracy have overlapped. The judiciary chose to exercise its powers under Article 142 and directly interfere with the functioning of a Legislative body. This order becomes even more relevant in light of the recent debate on whether the Supreme Court can impose a time limit on the Speaker to decide the complaints pending before him. It also highlights the persisting question surrounding the independence of the Speakers in legislative bodies.