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Himachal Pradesh crisis: Six rebel Congress MLAs disqualified by Speaker

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SHIMLA, Feb 29: Himachal Pradesh Assembly Speaker Kuldeep Singh Pathania on Thursday disqualified six Congress MLAs who had cross-voted in the recent Rajya Sabha polls for the lone seat in the state.

They had also abstained from voting on Budget in the assembly, defying a party whip to vote in favour of the government on the Finance Bill. The ruling Congress had sought their disqualification on this ground.

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The disqualified MLAs are Rajinder Rana, Sudhir Sharma, Inder Dutt Lakhanpal, Devinder Kumar Bhutoo, Ravi Thakur and Chetanya Sharma.

Following the disqualification of the rebel legislators, the effective strength of the House has reduced from 68 to 62 while the number of Congress MLAs has shrunk from 40 to 34.

It is for the first time in the history of Himachal Pradesh that any MLA has been disqualified under the anti-defection law aimed at checking defections.

Announcing the disqualification of the six rebel MLAs at a press conference, the Speaker said they attracted disqualification under the anti-defection law as they defied the whip and ceased to be members of the House with immediate effect.

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These disqualified MLAs, who had voted for BJP candidate Harsh Mahajan in the Rajya Sabha polls were not present in the House during voting on the Budget.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Harshwardhan filed a petition before the Speaker seeking disqualification of these members under the anti-defection law on Tuesday evening for defying the whip that required them to be present in the House and vote for the budget.

The Speaker issued show-cause notice to the MLAs and asked them to appear at 1.30 pm on Wednesday for hearing. These MLAs had left for Panchkula after the voting for Rajya Sabha polls on Tuesday and arrived for hearing on Wednesday.

After hearing the arguments of both the parties, the Speaker reserved the judgment on Wednesday and announced it on Thursday.

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Senior advocate Satya Pal Jain, who appeared for the rebel Congress MLAs, had argued that these MLAs were only given the show-cause notice and neither the copy of the petition nor the annexure were supplied. He said seven days’ time was mandatory for replying to the notice but no time was given.

Under the anti-defection law, any elected member who gives up the membership of a political party voluntarily or votes or abstains from voting in the House, contrary to any direction issued by his political party, is liable for disqualification.

The Congress party had issued whip to the members to be present in the House during voting on passing of the Budget. These MLAs had signed the attendance register but abstained from the House during voting on the Budget, the Speaker said.

These members were issued notices for defying the whip through Whatsapp and e-mail and were asked to appear for hearing.

These MLAs had cross-voted in favour of BJP candidate Harsh Mahajan in the Rajya Sabha elections on Tuesday. Later, they abstained from voting on the Budget in the assembly.

The House passed the Finance Bill by voice vote after Pathania suspended 15 BJP MLAs. The Speaker then adjourned the session sine die.

In a stunning upset for the ruling Congress in Himachal Pradesh, the BJP on Tuesday won the state’s lone Rajya Sabha seat with its candidate Harsh Mahajan defeating Congress stalwart Abhishek Manu Singhvi and apparently setting the stage for a no-trust motion in the assembly.

In his 30-page order, the Speaker mentioned the judgments of Supreme Court and high courts under the anti-defection law. Narrating the chronology of events, he said the plea of the advocate of the rebel MLAs, Satya Pal Jain, for giving time to reply to the notice was not entertained as “evidence was absolutely clear”.

The Speaker said delivering quick judgment was necessary in such cases to maintain the dignity of democracy and check “Aaya Ram, Gaya Ram” phenomenon. The judgment has no link with cross-voting by these MLAs in the Rajya Sabha polls, he added. (PTI)

 

 

 

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