Hearing on disqualification of 7 MLAs deferred, 2 MLAs seek more time to file response

Gangtok, 19 Nov:

Two of the seven sitting MLAs of Sikkim Democratic Front party, who are facing disqualification proceedings before the Speaker,were allowed more time to file their response as they are in mourning due to demise of family members. Given this development, the hearing on the matter has been deferred to a later date.

While hearing the petitions filed by Pahal Man Subba, former MP, and Navin Kiran Pradhan & Others seeking disqualification of seven MLAs who had joined SDFin 2015, on anti-defection ground, the Speaker of Sikkim Legislative Assembly today accepted the reply filed by five MLAs and allowed the two MLAs to file their responses later.

Counsel, N Rai, for respondents sought time on behalf of Rangpo-Pendam MLA,Gopal Baraily, who is in mourning after demise of his mother and Rhenock MLA, Hemendra Adhikari, who is also in mourning after demise of his grandmother.

In the meantime, two more applications were also filed before the SLA by Sikkim Krantikari Morcha and Independent MLA, Rup Narayan Chamling, seeking disqualification on the same grounds.

The Speaker allowed their applications and issued notice to the seven MLAs - Ugen Nedup Bhutia, Shyam Pradhan, HemendraAdhikari, Pintso Chopel Lepcha, Dr. Mechung Bhutia, Gopal Baraily and Timothy William Basnett and directed them to file their responses by 07 Jan 2019.

The Sikkim High Court on 25 Aug, last year had struck down the Parliamentary Secretaries Appointment and Allowances Act, 2010 as unconstitutional after Pahalman Subba and others including the principal opposition party, Sikkim Krantikar Morcha, had petitioned the court.

Striking down the Sikkim Parliamentary Secretaries Appointment, Salaries, Allowances and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 2010, the division bench had observed that Article 194 does not expressly authorise the State Legislature to create offices such as the one in question giving liberty to the petitioners to appropriate forum on the issues of disqualification and other related issues if advised so.

In light of the above judgment, Pahalman Subba, OP Bhandari and Navin Kiran Pradhan had petitioned the Governor seeking disqualification of 14 sitting legislators as Parliamentary Secretaries, Government Chief Whip, Chairman of Public Accounts Committee and Chairperson of Estimate Committee on grounds of holding ‘office of profit’ and availing other benefits.

Later, the then Governor Shrinivas Patil on the recommendation of the Election Commission of India [ECI] had ruled that they will not be disqualified for holding office of profit as the offices occupied by them are not offices under the government or fall under the exempted category.