9 Assam MLAs disqualified

Move comes in the wake of Congress legislators switching to BJP last month

By Sumir Karmakar in Guwahati
  • Published 22.12.15

Guwahati, Dec. 21: The Assam Assembly Speaker today disqualified nine MLAs of the ruling Congress on grounds of defection in a rerun of similar action 25 years ago.

Speaker Pranab Gogoi's ruling was announced by principal secretary of the Assembly, Pranab Kumar Das, at Dispur. Das said the MLAs who switched over to the BJP last month were disqualified today following the hearing of a complaint lodged on December 1 by Congress chief whip Nilamani Sen Deka.

The MLAs - Pradan Barua (Jonai), Jayanta Malla Baruah (Nalbari), Pallab Lochan Das (Behali), Rajen Borthakur (Tezpur), Binanda Saikia (Sipajhar), Pijush Hazarika (Raha), Kripanath Malla (Ratabari), Bolin Chetia (Sadiya) and Abu Taher Bepari (Golakganj) - were found guilty of violating the Tenth Schedule, popularly known as the anti-defection law. It was included in the Constitution in 1985 that sets the provisions for disqualification of elected members on the grounds of defection.

Assam had seen a similar disqualification in 1990 when seven United Minorities Front MLAs had joined the Congress, when the AGP was in power. The seven - Shanti Ranjan Dasgupta, Ardhendu Kumar Dey, Sheikh Saman Ali, Yusuf Ali, Gopinath Das, Afzalur Rahman Ragibi and Abdul Sarkar - were disqualified following a complaint by UMF legislator Abdur Jabbar.

"Following the complaint by Deka, the Speaker had issued a showcause notice to the MLAs and had asked them to reply within December 8. The legislators, however, sought another 10 days' time but the Speaker extended the deadline by six more days. Based on their replies on December 14, a hearing was held on December 19, during which both the complainant (Sen Deka) as well as the respondent MLAs presented their points of arguments before the Speaker," Das said.

Pijush Hazarika, one of the disqualified MLAs, termed the decision "undemocratic and partisan". "Since we were expelled by the Congress on October 27, we can't be disqualified as per rules. The disqualification rule would have applied had we been only suspended by the party. Since the Speaker is from the Congress, he acted in its favour. We will take legal recourse and abide by what the court says," Hazarika told The Telegraph.

The disqualified MLAs had joined the BJP on November 6 but had made their intention clear soon after former Congress minister Himanta Biswa Sarma joined the party in August.

Assam PCC spokesperson Apurba Kumar Bhattacharjee hailed the ruling, saying it has vindicated their stand of seeking their disqualification. "It has established we were right in seeking their disqualification. They were trying to mislead the people of the state by giving the impression that they had the right to continue as MLAs. It could be because of their lack of knowledge about anti-defection law. Today's ruling has established that the law of the land will eventually prevail," he said.

Normally, a political party approaches the Assembly Speaker to disqualify any of its legislators if he/she joins another party.

The MLA concerned can also resign from the party on whose ticket he had won the election under such circumstances. Former Congress strongman Himanta Biswa Sarma had resigned from the post of MLA in September.