The Goa unit of the Congress has moved the Supreme Court against an order of the Bombay High Court that had upheld the state Assembly Speaker’s decision to dismiss two pleas seeking disqualification of 12 MLAs, Bar and Bench reported on Thursday.

Ten MLAs belonging to the Congress and two from the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party had defected to the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2019. The Congress’s appeal for disqualification of the MLAs who had switched sides was rejected by the Speaker.

On February 24, the Goa bench of the Bombay High Court had upheld the Speaker’s decision.

The petition filed by Goa Congress chief Girish Chodankar before the Supreme Court argued that the High Court’s decision was against the basic spirit of democracy, reported the Hindustan Times.

Chodankar contended that the High Court’s interpretation will have “serious consequences in respect of the democratic and electoral process in the country”.

In the High Court, Advocate Vivek Tankha, appearing for Chodankar, said that the Speaker had “erred” in his interpretation of the fourth paragraph of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, which deals with the disqualification of MLAs. The High Court, however, had deemed the Speaker’s decision was correct.

Chodankar had also argued that the order will encourage the use of money to change people’s mandate.

The Tenth Schedule of the Constitution deals with defections both at the central and state level. It says that a member of the House shall be disqualified from being its member if, after getting elected, they give up the membership of their party or join another political party.

They will also be disqualified if they vote or abstain from voting in contradiction to the direction issued by the party. The only exception to the law is if two-thirds of a legislative party decides to defect together.

The Congress lawmakers who broke away are Babu Kavalekar, Babush Monserratte, his wife Jennifer Monserrate, Tony Fernandes, Francis Silveira, Filipe Neri Rodrigues, Clafasio, Wilfred De Sa, Nilkant Halankar and Isidore Fernandes.

The Congress was the single largest party in Goa after the 2017 elections to the 40-member Assembly, but the BJP had formed alliances to come to power. Following the defection of MLAs in 2019, the Congress’ strength in the Goa Assembly fell to just five legislators, while the BJP had 27 MLAs.

The Goa Congress’ move comes during the vote counting for the 2022 state Assembly elections.

Read the latest updates on Assembly election results here