Courts cannot impose a time frame on the speaker of a legislative Assembly to decide on the resignations submitted by MLAs, said the Himachal Pradesh High Court in a recent judgement, reported Live Law on Tuesday.

The judgement, passed on June 14, pertained to a petition filed by three independent MLAs – Hoshiyar Singh, Ashish Sharma and KL Thakur – who had sought directions to the speaker to accept their resignations immediately, as they had joined the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The three legislators had voted in favour of the BJP candidate in the Rajya Sabha elections in February and submitted their resignation to the Assembly Speaker Kuldeep Singh Pathania.

However, Pathania did not immediately accept their resignations, which prompted the three MLAs to approach Governor Shiv Pratap Shukla and later file a writ petition in the High Court. The plea contended that their resignations were voluntary and genuine, and thus the speaker was obliged to accept them immediately.

On June 14, Justice Sandeep Sharma said that the speaker is a constitutional functionary and holds a status equal to the constitutional courts. Since the matter fell within the speaker’s jurisdiction, there was no basis for judicial imposition of deadlines, said the court.

According to the judgment, the court also said that the speaker retains discretionary powers if evidence indicates involuntary resignation. The presence of BJP MLAs while the petitioners, who were independent MLAs, submitted their resignations to Pathania created doubts, the court noted.

The speaker has discretion in deciding whether to accept or reject an MLA’s resignation immediately upon receipt. This discretion relies on the speaker’s satisfaction regarding the voluntary and genuine nature of the resignation, without any coercion, the court said.

The court clarified that the speaker’s role under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, which deals with the disqualification of legislators who defect from a party, is different from his role when accepting or rejecting resignations, reported Live Law.

“The speaker acts as an officer of the state legislature while he considers the prayer made, if any, by a member to accept his/her resignation, whereas, under Tenth Schedule, the speaker acts as a Tribunal tasked with a duty to adjudicate questions relating to disqualification of members of the House,” read the judgement.

The case was initially heard by a division bench comprising Chief Justice MS Ramachandra Rao and Justice Jyotsna Rewal Dua. However, it was sent to Sharma after the bench expressed a difference of opinion.

While Dua had sought to direct the speaker to decide on the resignations within two weeks, while Rao declined to impose a timeline.

The judgement came after the resignations of the three MLAs were accepted by the speaker on June 3.