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Axe hovers on rebels

Patna, Feb. 25: The sword of Damocles hangs over the 13 MLAs whose signed petition caused a split in the 22-member RJD legislature party in the Assembly.

Constitutional experts and former presiding officers are of the view that there is no provision for a split under the law as laid down in the 10th Schedule of the Constitution. The statute, according to the experts, says that a member would not be disqualified if he/she merges with another political outfit.

The 10th Schedule deals with the provisions of disqualification on the ground of defection.

“It (defection) is dealt with by the 10th Schedule of the Constitution….It is a case of defection and if properly adjudicated, they (those who defected) will lose their seat,” senior Supreme Court advocate Amarendra Sharan told The Telegraph over phone from Delhi.

Sharan, a former additional solicitor-general, made it clear that the Constitution allows a merger but does not recognise a split.

The Assembly secretariat on Monday issued a notification in which Speaker Uday Narayan Chaudhary recognised the Samrat Choudhary-led 13-member RJD group as being “unattached” and allotted a separate seating arrangement for the block in the Assembly.

Sharan said the Speaker’s decision can be challenged in the court.

Nagendra Rai, another senior advocate of the Supreme Court, echoed Sharan. “They may be disqualified from the membership of the House but that decision has to be taken by the Speaker,” he added.

So what happens to the notification now that nine of the 13 MLAs have ostensibly returned to the RJD and have submitted separate signed letters to the Speaker’s office?

Rai, a former acting chief justice of Patna High Court, believes the Speaker may withdraw his notification after conducting proper inquiries. He may also rescind his decision if he thinks that recognition was given on the basis of signatures that were fraudulently taken, as is being claimed by Lalu Prasad’s supporters, Rai added.

Citing the provisions of the 10th Schedule of the Constitution, Patna High Court senior advocate Yogesh Chandra Verma said the MLAs stand to be disqualified since two-thirds of the RJD legislature party, i.e. 15 of 22 MLAs, needed to break out to avoid terms of the law.

Former Bihar Assembly Speaker Sadanand Singh, who was the presiding officer during the Lalu-Rabri regime from February 2000 to June 2005, was critical of the manner in which Speaker Chaudhary granted recognition to the RJD rebel group.

He said it was important to know if the MLAs concerned were present before the Speaker at the time of submission of the petition. If not, the Speaker should have verified the signatures of the concerned members by calling them individually to his chamber, Singh said.


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