In an unprecedented action, the Punjab Assembly on Wednesday expelled former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh from the House following his indictment in a graft case and declared the seat vacant for holding a by-election.
The expulsion of 66-year-old Singh, who was chief minister from 2002 to 2007, came amid chaotic scenes with the opposition Congress MLAs rising in protest against a resolution moved by the Chairman of the nine member-House Committee Harish Rai Dhanda.
This is perhaps the first time a former chief minister of any state assembly has been expelled for the rest of the term of the House and the seat declared vacant in this fashion. Amarinder, who represents Patiala, called the action political vendetta and unconstitutional and vowed to challenge it in court.
Dhanda, who headed the House committee that indicted Amarinder for alleged irregularities in a land transfer deal in Amritsar, moved the resolution in the midst of pandemonium when the House was to discuss the report of the Committee.
Slogan shouting Congress MLAs, barring Leader of Opposition Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and Amarinder, rushed to the the well of the house and clashed with the Watch and Ward staff to reach near the Speaker's podium. They later staged a walk out.
The House also adopted by voice vote a breach of privilege motion moved by SAD member Virsa Singh Valtoha against the former Chief Minister and another sitting Congress member Makhan Singh on the charge of casting aspersions on Speaker Nirmal Singh Kahlon, Dhanda and the House Committee.
The House Committee, which was looking into a complaint of senior Congress leader Bir Devinder Singh, charged Amarinder and others with releasing 32.10 acres of land under Improvement Trust, Amritsar for development by private companies in violation of rules.
The motion also requested the Election Commission 'to conduct a by-election from Patiala assembly seat following Amarinder's expulsion from the 19-month old 13th assembly constituted in February last year'.
The motion, which was seconded by the BJP member Tikshan Sud, also decided to hand over the case to the Vigilance Bureau for further investigation.
"The Director, Vigilance Bureau has been asked to register an FIR and submit a report to the Speaker Nirmal Singh Kahlon within two months," it said.
The Vigilance probe was necessary, it said as the House Committee concluded that a cognisable offence was made out by Amarinder, then Local Bodies Minister Jagjit Singh and then Housing and Urban Development Minister late Raghunath Sahai Puri and former Chairman of Amritsar Improvement Trust Jugal K Sharma.
Also there was no mechanism with the Committee to ascertain where the alleged ill gotten money had gone.
Describing his expulsion as 'violation of the constitution and principles of jurisprudence', Amarinder said that the Akalis have set up a dangerous trend.
"It is contempt of court. There is a judgment of the five-judge bench of the Supreme Court in a Gujarat case," he told media persons shortly after he was expelled.
The House Committee was headed by a Parliamentary Secretary, which was unconstitutional, he said, adding, "We will go to the High Court against this".
The Congress termed Singh's expulsion as a 'sad day for democracy' and alleged the ruling SAD-BJP regime in the state had taken 'vendetta politics too far'.