The Supreme Court on Monday directed West Bengal Assembly Speaker Biman Banerjee to decide on the disqualification petition moved against Trinamool Congress MLA Mukul Roy expeditiously, reported Live Law.
The court was hearing a plea filed by Banerjee against a Calcutta High Court order directing him to decide on Roy’s disqualification from the House by October 7. This order was passed on a plea filed by Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Ambika Roy challenging appointment of Mukul Roy as the chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee of the West Bengal Legislative Assembly.
Mukul Roy had defected to the Trinamool Congress in June, months after winning the Krishnanagar Uttar constituency in the West Bengal Assembly elections on a BJP ticket. In the following month, Banerjee appointed him as the chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee of the House.
Meanwhile, before his appointment to the post, BJP MLA and Leader of the Opposition in West Bengal Assembly Suvendu Adhikari had on June 17 sent a plea to the Assembly Speaker, seeking disqualification of Mukul Roy as an MLA under the anti-defection law.
During Monday’s hearing, the Supreme Court asked senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Banerjee, whether the High Court on October 7 had sought a copy of the order passed on Roy’s disqualification.
Singhvi told a bench of Justices Nageswara Rao and Hima Kohli that the High Court adjourned the hearing on October 7 after it was informed that the Speaker has moved a special leave petition.
The senior advocate also said that the Speaker was going to hear the matter of Roy’s disqualification on November 12 but had deferred it to December 21 in view of the special leave petition.
Singhvi also argued that a directive on appointment as the chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee cannot be issued to the Speaker, reported the Hindustan Times.
However, the court sought to know about the disqualification petition against Mukul Roy.
“It takes years now to decide the petitions under the Tenth Schedule,” the court said. “There have been so many cases where there are delays by the Speaker and when such cases come to this court, we are told that you cannot pass any order till the Speaker decides. This has been the common experience.”
To this, Singhvi said that courts must interfere in cases where there are egregious delays but pointed out that in the current case, no intervention was required. He submitted before the court that Adhikari himself had sought several adjournments in hearing of his disqualification petition.
The Tenth Schedule lays down grounds for disqualification of a legislator on account of defection.
Singhvi also contended that Ambika Roy’s petition before the High Court had not even called for a decision on disqualification but was only asking for setting aside Mukul Roy’s appointment as the chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee.
“Yes, we have seen it,” the bench replied. “In spite of which we want this direction by the High Court to be implemented. We want the Speaker to pass an order under the Tenth Schedule.”
Senior advocate Shekhar Naphade, appearing for Ambika Roy, said that the Speaker filed the special leave petition before the Supreme Court in order to delay proceedings.
The court, however, replied that it will hear the case in details some other day.
“You [speaker] take a decision on your own without getting influenced by the observations of the High Court,” the Supreme Court said. “We need not say anything in our order but you finish the proceedings.”
The matter has been adjourned till January 17.