HC rejects PIL seeking disqualification of former SKM MLAs

Gangtok, 19 Jun:

High Court of Sikkim today rejected the Public Interest Litigation [PIL] seeking disqualification of seven sitting MLAs who switched from Sikkim Krantikari Morcha to the ruling Sikkim Democratic Front on 30 Nov, 2015 on grounds of defection.

The PIL was filed by former Member of Lok Sabha, Pahalman Subba and two other persons challenging the order passed by the Lok Sabha Speaker that rejected their petition for disqualification of the 7 MLAs. The Speaker had rejected their petition citing Rule 7 Clauses (1) and (2) of the Rules of 1985.

While rejecting the contentions and prayers of the petitioners, the division bench of High Court said that the petitioners have not followed the required procedure as laid under Rule 6 of the Sikkim Members of the Sikkim Legislative Assembly (Disqualification on ground of Defection) Rules, 1985.

The court also noted that out of five petitioners, one has not signed the petition filed before the Speaker, Sikkim Legislative Assembly. The petition was not duly verified, as required under the Rules and the copy of the petition was endorsed to several constitutional functionaries including the press and media, which was not the requirement of the procedure or of the constitutional provisions, it added..

“There were no documents except a newspaper report which gave reasons to the applicants therein to believe that responding MLAs have switched over from the original party to the new party. Newspaper report was neither authenticated nor duly signed and verified. Even other annexures were also neither authenticated nor duly signed and verified, as required under Rule 6 of the Rules of 1985. Thus, it does not meet the requirement of Rule 6,” the court said.

As per rule 6 of the Rules 1985, the petitioners have to ensure authenticity of the facts and documents laid down by prescribing that the petition as well as the annexures be duly signed and verified by the petitioner.

Rendering the judgment, the division bench headed by Chief Justice Satish Kumar Agnihotri and Justice Meenakshi Madan Rai held that, "as a sequitur, Rule 6 (2) and Rule 7 (2), the impugned order of Additional Secretary of Sikkim Legislative Assembly dated 02 February 2017 is not faulted with, as the same was rendered in accordance with rules as it stood at the relevant time, thus, no interference is warranted."

Consequently, the other reliefs sought cannot be ordered at this stage, the bench said.

However, the court has made it clear that the rules also allow that if a petition fails to comply with the requirement of Rule 6, the petitioner be granted an opportunity to cure the defect before dismissing the petition at the threshold.

The bench was of the view that as examined by the Supreme Court in various cases, not only a member of the Legislative Assembly but any other person interested is competent to make a reference (petition) to the Speaker for initiating a process of disqualification of a member, who has incurred it under Tenth Schedule.