The Supreme Court Tuesday said suspension from legislative assembly for one year should be linked with some purpose and there has to be an 'overpowering' reason that the member should not be allowed to even attend the next session.
The apex court, which was hearing the pleas filed by 12 Bharatiya Janata Party MLAs who have challenged their one-year suspension from Maharashtra legislative assembly for allegedly misbehaving with the presiding officer, observed that the real issue is the rationality of the decision.
The top court had earlier said suspension from the legislative assembly for one year is worse than expulsion as the consequences are so dreadful and the right of a constituency to remain represented in the House is affected.
During the hearing on Tuesday, a three-judge bench headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar told senior advocate A Sundaram, appearing for Maharashtra, that "the decision should be linked with some purpose, the purpose can only be the orderly fashion of the house so that business can be completed. There has to be an overpowering reason that he should not be allowed to even attend the next session. The core issue is the principle of rational decision."
Sundaram argued on the issue of the limited scope for judicial review over the business within the state assembly.
He said the judicial review of what is happening in the House will only be in case of gross illegality, otherwise, it will attack the core of separation of power.
"If I have the power to punish, the constitution, not any parliamentary law defines what the punishment can be. It is the power of the legislature to punish in a manner it deems fit, including expulsion. Suspension or expulsion depriving the constituency of representation is not a ground," Sundaram submitted.
The bench, also comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and CT Ravikumar, observed that the decision of the legislature cannot be untrammelled and there are limits within constitutional and legal parameters.
"When you say that action has to be rational, there should be some purpose of suspension and the purpose of suspension and the purpose is with regards to the session. It should not travel beyond that session. Anything other than this would be irrational. The real issue is about the rationality of the decision and the same should be for some purpose.
"There should be some overwhelming reason. Your decision of one year is irrational because of the deprivation of the constituency being unrepresented for more than six months. We are talking about the spirit of Parliamentary law now. It is the interpretation of the Constitution in the manner it ought to be dealt," the bench said.
The apex court also reiterated that it is the Supreme Court that is supreme in interpreting the constitution, not legislature.
"The Election Commission also got the role. Where a vacancy is there, they have to come into the picture and elections will have to be conducted. In case of suspension, there will not be an election but if a person is expelled then an election will be conducted. Another danger to democracy. Suppose there is a slender lead of the majority, and 15-20 people are suspended, what would be the fate of democracy? the bench said.
The arguments remained inconclusive and will continue on Wednesday.
On December 14 last year, the apex court had sought responses from the Maharashtra legislative assembly and the state government on the pleas filed by these 12 BJP MLAs.
The top court had observed that issues raised in the matter and arguments advanced by the advocates appearing for the petitioners as well as the state are "debatable" and "require deeper consideration".
These 12 BJP MLAs have filed petitions challenging the resolution passed by the assembly to suspend them for one year.
These MLAs were suspended on July 5 last year from the assembly after the state government had accused them of 'misbehaving' with presiding officer Bhaskar Jadhav in the Speaker's chamber.
The 12 suspended members are Sanjay Kute, Ashish Shelar, Abhimanyu Pawar, Girish Mahajan, Atul Bhatkhalkar, Parag Alavani, Harish Pimpale, Yogesh Sagar, Jay Kumar Rawat, Narayan Kuche, Ram Satpute and Bunty Bhangdia.
The motion to suspend these MLAs was moved by state Parliamentary Affairs Minister Anil Parab and passed by a voice vote.
Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis had termed the allegation as false, and said Jadhav's account of the incident was 'one-sided.'
"This is a false allegation and an attempt to reduce the numbers of opposition benches because we exposed the government's falsehood on the OBC quota in local bodies," Fadnavis had said, adding that the BJP members had not abused the presiding officer.
However, Jadhav had sought a probe into the allegation that some Shiv Sena members and he made uncharitable remarks, and said he was ready to face any punishment if it was proven true.
"Abusive words were directed at me. Some people are saying I made uncharitable remarks. Let there be a probe into it after checking the CCTV footage. If I have used any inappropriate language, I am ready to face any punishment," Jadhav had said.