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Mukul Roy disqualification: Suvendu Adhikari moves Supreme Court against West Bengal Speaker’s order

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West Bengal Assembly Leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari of the BJP has moved the Supreme Court against the West Bengal Speaker’s order dated February 11, 2022, dismissing his disqualification petition against Mukul Roy.

In his petition, Adhikari stated that Mukul Roy had voluntarily given up membership of the BJP, which had nominated him as a candidate in the Assembly elections.

In the disqualification petition, there were specific allegations made by Adhikari (petitioner) that the Speaker had defected to the All India Trinamool Congress on 11.06.2021. In support of the allegations, Adhikari relied on various media reports, screenshots from social media platforms and video recordings downloaded from the official Facebook handle of the All India Trinamool Congress where the Speaker is seen publicly expressing his support for the All Indian Trinamool Congress and its leader  Mamata Banerjee and admitting that he had joined the All India Trinamool Congress.

The petitioner submitted that the Speaker’s order dated 11.02.2022 is wholly perverse and has been passed without any application of mind. The Speaker failed to exercise jurisdiction vested in him under Paragraph 6 of the Tenth Schedule to the Constitution because it did not consider the pleadings of the parties and it failed to appreciate that Mukul Roy gave a bald and evasive denial in his reply to the specific allegation of the Petitioner that Mukul Roy had defected to the All India Trinamool Congress.

Furthermore, the petitioner alleged that the Speaker did not consider that as a ‘content viewer’, the certificate provided by the petitioner in support of the social media screenshots and the video footage fully complied with the provisions of Section 65- B(4) of the Evidence Act, 1872.

In view of the settled legal position that a person who has no control over the computer containing the electronic record cannot be compelled to provide a certificate under Section 65-B(4) of the Evidence Act, 1872 while submitting such record in evidence and in view of the findings recorded by the Speaker that the All India Trinamool Congress and not the Petitioner had control over the computer holding the electronic record through which the Tweets, Facebook posts and the video footage, etc. were generated, the Speaker wrongly arrived at the finding that the evidence submitted by the Petitioner was inadmissible.

Moreover, the Petitioner alleged that the Speaker failed to take into account that Mukul Roy admitted in its reply that he had attended the meeting dated 11.06.2021 organized by the All India Trinamool Congress – the date on which he defected from the BJP – and thus, the existence and contents of video footage and screenshots of the events on 11.06.2021 provided by the Petitioner in evidence become admissible under Section 65(b) of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.

The Grounds mentioned by Suvendu Adhikari Adhikari in the Petition:-

A- BECAUSE, it is well-settled that the decision of the Speaker under Paragraph 6(1) of the Tenth Schedule to the Constitution is amenable to judicial review on the grounds of infirmities based on violation of constitutional mandate, mala fides, non-compliance with rules of natural justice and perversity. 


B. Because the deeming provision in Paragraph 6(2) of the Tenth Schedule attracts an immunity analogous to that in Articles 122(1) and 212(1) of the Constitution as understood and explained in Keshav Singh case [(1965) 1 SCR 413: AIR 1965 SC 745] to protect the validity of proceedings from mere ‘irregularities of procedure’. 


C. The Speakers/Chairmen while exercising powers and discharging functions under the Tenth Schedule act as Tribunal adjudicating rights and obligations under the Tenth Schedule and their decisions in that capacity are amenable to judicial review. 


D. Because a writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India against an order passed by the Speaker in a matter regarding disqualification of a member of Legislative Assembly was entertained by this Hon’ble Court in Mahachandra Prasad Singh v. Chairman, Bihar Legislative Council, (2004) 8 SCC 747. 


E. Because the Hon’ble Speaker failed to exercise jurisdiction vested in him under Paragraph 6 of the Tenth Schedule to the Constitution because it did not consider the pleadings of the parties and it failed to appreciate that the Respondent No. 2 (Mukul Roy) gave a bald and evasive denial in his reply to the specific allegation of the Petitioner that the Respondent No. 2 had defected to the All India Trinamool Congress. 


F. Because Respondent No. 1 (Speaker)  utterly failed to consider that the Petitioner had filed a certificate in terms of Section 65B(4) of the Evidence Act, 1872 in support of its rejoinder filed in the disqualification proceedings. 


G. Because as a ‘content viewer’, the certificate provided by the Petitioner in support of the social media screenshots and the video footage fully complied with the provision of Section 65-B of the Evidence Act, 1872. 


H. Because in view of the settled legal position that a person who has no control over the computer containing the electronic record cannot be compelled to provide a certificate under Section 65-B(4) of the Evidence Act, 1872, and in view of the findings recorded by the Respondent No. 1 that the All India Trinamool Congress and not the Petitioner had control over the computer holding the electronic record through which the Tweets, Facebook posts and the video footage etc. were generated, the Respondent No. 1 wrongly arrived at the finding that the evidence submitted by the Petitioner was inadmissible. 


I. Because the impugned order dated 11.02.2022 passed by Respondent No. 1 is vitiated for non-application of mind because it completely disregards the tweets, Facebook posts, and video footage, which are admissible pieces of evidence under the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. 


J. Because the impugned order dated 11.02.2022 passed by Respondent No. 1 failed to consider that Respondent No. 2 admitted in its reply that he had attended the meeting dated 11.06.2021 and thus, the existence and contents of video footage and screenshots of the events on 11.06.2021 provided by the Petitioner in evidence become admissible under Section 65(b) of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. 


K. Because the conduct of Respondent No. 2 makes it abundantly clear that he has voluntarily given up his membership of the BJP and joined the All India Trinamool Congress. 


L. Because the phrase ‘voluntarily giving up of membership’ has a wider connotation than resignation. In Ravi S. Naik and Sanjay Bandekar vs. Union of India and Ors., 1994 Supp (2) SCC 641, this Hon’ble Court held that in the absence of a formal resignation by the member, the giving up of membership can be inferred by his conduct. It was held that “The words voluntarily given up his membership” are not synonymous with “resignation” and have a wider connotation. A person may voluntarily give up his membership of a political party even though he has not tendered his resignation from the membership of that party. Even in the absence of a formal resignation from membership inference can be drawn from the conduct of a member that he has voluntarily given up his membership of the political party to which he belongs.” 


M. Because in G. Viswanathan v. The Hon’ble Speaker, Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly, Madras & Another 1996 (2) SCC 353, this Hon’ble Court held “If he of his own volition joins another political party, as the appellants did in the present case, he must be taken to have acquired the membership of another political party by abandoning the political party to which he belonged or must be deemed to have belonged under the explanation to paragraph 2(1) of the Tenth Schedule.” 


N. Because the continuation of Respondent No. 2 as a Member of the Legislative Assembly even for a single day since his defection to AITC is an affront to the basic principles of democracy and its essential values. 


O. Because the disqualification incurred by a member of a legislative assembly for non-compliance with a whip issued by a political party under Paragraph 2(1)(b) of the Tenth Schedule is completely different from the disqualification incurred under Paragraph 2(1)(a) of the Tenth Schedule. The impugned judgment and order dated 11.02.2022 thus relied on irrelevant consideration while dismissing the disqualification petition. It is, therefore, liable to be set aside.

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