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MLAs not paid to sit idle: Court

- Govt given five weeks to decide Delhi House fate

New Delhi, Aug. 5: A Constitution bench of the Supreme Court today gave the Centre five weeks to decide on the fate of the Delhi Assembly, saying legislators cannot idle at home at taxpayers’ expense.

“You are not in a position to form a government. You are paying salary to the elected members while they don’t do any work. You are not doing any service to anyone. Why should the people suffer? Therefore, you take a decision,” the bench, headed by Justice H.L. Dattu, told additional solicitor general P.S. Narasimha.

The court asked him to get back with the government’s stand within five weeks.

“Convey our feelings to the government. You are paying taxpayers’ money to elected lawmakers. I am a citizen of Delhi. I want them to serve me. Take a decision at the earliest,” Justice Dattu observed.

The bench brushed aside Narasimha’s claim that the government was alive to the issue and efforts were on to deal with it.

The bench, also comprising Justices J. Chelameswar, A.K. Sikri, R.K. Agrawal and Arun Mishra, said: “This can’t go on. One party does not have the strength, another does not have a desire. The third has no numbers. Why should the people suffer when elected members sit at home? You have to take a view. Either the existing House must be allowed to function or a new House must be elected.”

The bench did not agree with the Centre’s argument that the life of the Assembly was 60 months and only four months had lapsed after the Arvind Kejriwal government bowed out of office.

“We are not looking at any political party before us. We are looking at the Delhi citizen’s point of view. He may say he has elected a representative and he is drawing salary from taxpayers’ money and sitting idle,” the bench said.

The apex court was dealing with a petition filed by the Aam Aadmi Party seeking a directive to the Centre to either ensure installation of an alternative government in Delhi or dissolve the Assembly to allow fresh polls.

The capital has been under President’s rule since February, when Kejriwal quit as chief minister.

Earlier, during the arguments, Narasimha insisted that the court cannot prescribe any time limit for taking such a decision.

“The petition (AAP’s) stands on a different footing as it has been filed by a political party,” he argued.

Appearing for AAP, senior counsel Fali S. Nariman lamented that both the Congress and the BJP “are hemming and hawing, but not saying if they will form a government. The court has to break this silence”.

Nariman said that since the presidential proclamation was ratified by both Houses, the government has to take a fresh call within a reasonable time of the proclamation being ratified.

“It can’t be forever. The elected members are sitting idle. Somebody has to motivate them or dissolve the House in the near future, not the distant future. Can I sit on my haunches? Who has staked a claim to form a government?”

“There is just no prospect of a government being formed. In a representative form of government, you can’t extend the (presidential proclamation) forever,” he said.