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SC asks Tamil Nadu to reply on plea alleging inaction by Speaker to disqualify 11 AIADMK MLAs

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought the Tamil Nadu government’s response on alleged inaction and unnecessary delay by the Speaker in deciding pleas seeking disqualification of 11 MLAs from the ruling AIADMK for voting against Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami during a trial of strength in the Assembly in 2017.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde asked the Tamil Nadu advocate general, appearing for the state government, to furnish the reply by February 14.

During the hearing, Justice Bobde termed as “unnecessary” the three-year delay on the part of the Speaker in deciding the disqualification pleas moved by DMK, the state’s main opposition party.

The Chief Justice cited a verdict of the apex court which has said the Speaker should decide a disqualification matter within three months.

“But apart from this judgment, the Speaker cannot hold on to disqualification proceedings for as long as three years,” he said.

On January 24, the apex court had agreed to consider a plea of senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for DMK, for an urgent hearing of the matter.

The 11 AIADMK MLAs include Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, whom the DMK accused of having violated the anti-defection law under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution.

Sibal referred to a January 21 verdict of the apex court, saying Speakers of Lok Sabha and state assemblies should decide disqualification petitions against legislators, especially those who defect, within a “reasonable period” of maximum three months.

The court had observed that Parliament should “rethink” whether the Speaker of a House should continue to have powers to disqualify lawmakers as such a person holding the post belonged to a particular political party.

In April 2018, the Madras High Court had rejected DMK’s plea for disqualification of the 11 MLAs on the ground that a petition was pending before the Supreme Court on powers of a court to issue directions to the state Assembly Speaker.

The AIADMK legislators had voted against Palaniswami when they were in a rebel camp in the party.

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