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Chatterjee can continue as Speaker: Experts

July 24, 2008 19:11 IST

Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee [Images] may have been expelled by his party, CPI(M), but his tenure as an MP, or for that matter, as the presiding officer of the Lower House remains unaffected, say constitutional and legal experts.

His party's decision to punish him by expelling him for disobeying its whip over the recent trust vote may not affect him due to the immunity he enjoys by virtue of the constitutional post that he holds, they said.

Former Secretary General of Lok Sabha Subhash Kashyap said "The expulsion from the party does not affect his position as Speaker unless he himself chooses to resign. He could be removed by the Lok Sabha only."

Former Law Minister and senior advocate Shanti Bhushan echoed his views and said, "The Lok Sabha and only the Lok Sabha and can get rid of the Speaker."

Though Chatterjee preferred to retain CPI(M)'s membership at the time of his election as Speaker in 2004, he still does not fall in the same category as an MP who could face disqualification for voting or abstaining from voting contrary to the party whip, say experts.

 The Constitution shields the Speaker against disqualification from Parliament even if he resigns from his party -- a privilege not enjoyed by an ordinary MP, they said.

On being asked if a defiant Chatterjee, who was expelled by his party in the wake of his refusal to quit the Speaker's post before the trust vote, should resign from the post on moral grounds, they said the decision of the party has no bearing on him continuing as Speaker.

 "Not at all. The House had elected him. How come the decision of the party would bind a person holding a constitutional post?," Bhushan asked.

Senior advocate P N Lekhi described CPI(M)'s decision to expel the veteran parliamentarian  as "unfortunate" and said once an MP is elected as a Speaker he ceases to the member of any party.

"Generally speaking, it is very unfortunate and abuse of common sense. Whatever might be the constitution of a political party whenever a person becomes the Speaker he is no longer a member of that party," he said.

 Referring to the speech made by Dr Rajendra Prasad in the Constituent Assembly on November 26, 1949, Lekhi said "We have borrowed the power and privileges on the model of British Parliament where the Speaker is above the party."

 "The CPI(M) has acted in violation of the constitutional convention established over 300 years ago," he said.

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