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Ranchi rerun cloud on Lucknow

Lucknow, March 24: A judiciary-legislature confrontation is brewing in Uttar Pradesh over the Speaker's refusal to comply with a court order seeking to serve summons on 40 MLAs in a disqualification case.

In a controversy that recalls the Supreme Court's ruling regarding the Jharkhand floor test, Allahabad High Court directed Speaker Mata Prasad Pandey on March 10 to serve its summons on 40 MLAs who quit the Bahujan Samaj Party to join the ruling Samajwadi Party in 2003.

'I do not agree with the observations made by the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court,' the Speaker said yesterday and stuck to his directive to maintain status quo.

The court had noted on March 10 that it had not received a written acknowledgement of compliance from the Speaker's office and directed the court registrar to get back to the office and get the summons served.

While listing the case filed by the BSP for a hearing on April 11, the judges observed: 'Only comment we would like to make (on non-compliance) is that the officer (Assembly's principal secretary) lacks officer-like qualities.'

The court first sent a reminder to the Speaker's office on January 6. More followed on January 18 and February 4 and 18. The court also directed the registrar to print the summons in newspapers for public notification.

The court's observations followed after the MLAs refused to appear before it despite the public notification and the repeated refusal of the Speaker's office to comply with the order.

According to lawyers, the court sought to serve the summons through the Speaker in a bid to take the legislature into confidence since its presiding officer had recognised the MLAs.

Pandey, apparently inspired by Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee's reservations over apex court orders to Jharkhand, said the high court directive was a clear interference in the legislature's work. 'This syndrome is growing,' he said.

'I have directed the principal secretary (R.P. Pandey) not to take any further action on the issue in view of directive no. 160 of the rules of procedure of the Vidhan Sabha when the principal secretary sought my orders on this,' the Speaker said.

The rule says the Speaker is entitled to an independent view on all matters of legislative functions. Pandey said he was also relying on identical disputes and Allahabad High Court's related letters of August 22, 1953, and February 20, 1968. 'Law is by my side,' he said.

He found support from the legislative council chairman, Sukhram Singh Yadav. 'The growing interference of the judiciary in the affairs of the legislature is unwarranted and I will soon seek an appointment with the President urging him to intervene in the matter' he said.

Leaders of the ruling Samajwadi Party, which could be in trouble if the 40 MLAs were to be disqualified, backed the Speaker. The 'Lakshman rekha' between the judiciary and the legislature is clearly drawn and its frequent 'violations' were not a healthy sign, said its state unit chief Ram Saran Das.

The Congress, in keeping with the party-led Centre's non-confrontational stand in the Jharkhand issue, said the Speaker should have obeyed the court order.

'The battle in Jharkhand was over what looked like a directive to the governor and the judiciary seemed to be clearly directing how to run the House. Here, it is a matter of compliance with just a procedure,' said state party chief Salman Khursheed.

The BJP said the party would prefer to stay out of the controversy.

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