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BJP rebel plea put on hold

Lucknow, Dec. 1: Uttar Pradesh Speaker Kesari Nath Tripathi has reserved his ruling on a BJP petition seeking disqualification of 10 rebel legislators on the ground that their conduct amounts to voluntarily quitting the party.

After hearing the arguments of counsels from both sides yesterday, Tripathi said he would give his ruling on the maintainability of the petition on a date to be announced later.

Appearing on behalf of the dissidents, advocates M.L. Nageshwar Rao, I.B. Singh and Jaideep Narain Mathur argued that the MLAs might be guilty of gross indiscipline but their actions did not amount to voluntarily giving up membership of the party, which could make them liable for action under the Anti-Defection Act.

They said the purpose of the Tenth Schedule was to check floor crossing by MLAs and not punish them for indiscipline. “The party can expel or suspend them for indiscipline but the legislators have not violated the whip inside the House nor have they done anything which proves that they have voluntarily given up membership of the party.”

The advocates demanded immediate dismissal of the petition on grounds of procedural and technical flaws and argued that it was not based on “material facts” but depended solely on newspaper reports.

They pointed out that the petition was not accompanied by an affidavit that has become mandatory after an amendment in the Civil Procedure Code.

“Besides, the petition is replete with contradictions. It claims that the 10 MLAs went to the Governor and expressed lack of faith in the ruling coalition, of which BJP is a member. However, the statement issued by the Governor categorically states that none of the 10 legislators had said, either in writing or verbally, that they were withdrawing support from the government,” the counsels said.

They also objected to the fact that a video cassette submitted by the petitioners as evidence against the MLAs was not made available to the respondents.

Arguing for the BJP, counsel Satya Pal Jain admitted that there might have been some flaws in the petition but these were “curable” and could not be considered “fatal” for the petition itself.

He insisted that the conduct of the MLAs presented a perfect case for disqualification under the Anti-Defection Act.

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