Giving relief to expelled Samajwadi Party MPs Amar Singh and Jaya Prada, the Supreme Court directed that no action shall be taken against them under the Anti-Defection Law in the event of their defying a party whip.
A bench headed by Altamas Kabir passed the order while referring to a larger Constitution bench the question as to whether an expelled member could be disqualified under the law, if he/she chooses to defy a party whip.
Both Singh and Jaya Prada had sought interim stay on any possible action against them in case they decided to vote in favour of Women's Reservation Bill to which the Samajwadi Party is fiercely opposed to.
The apex court had on November 10 decided to make the reference after Attorney General G E Vahanvati agreed that the issue needs to be settled by a larger bench as the apex court's earlier judgement in the Vishwanathan case was not clear on certain aspects of the anti-defection law.
It took the decision after hearing in detail Vahanvati and senior counsel Harish Salve and K K Venugopal, appearing for Singh and Jaya Prada.
The two leaders had contended that they have landed in a piquant situation as expelled members, they apprehend disqualification under the anti-defection law if they choose to defy party's whip on any issue in Parliament.
The counsel for two parliamentarians argued that the anti-defection law could be evoked only against those who either defect from the party or defy its whip while being in the party.
But, in their case, they contended, the MPs did not defected from the party but were expelled, and as unattached members, they were not amenable to the party's whip.
Earlier, the apex court had sought the Attorney General's opinion on the plea of Singh and Jaya Prada that they should not be disqualified as Members of Parliament after their expulsion from the Samajwadi Party.
The two sacked MPs had moved the apex court fearing they may be disqualified for not abiding by the party whip in Parliament in view of the apex court verdict in a case in 1996.
As per the interpretation of the anti-defection law by the Supreme Court in 1996, a member elected or nominated by a political party continues to be under its control even after his or her expulsion.
They felt the apex court's interpretation of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution impinged upon fundamental rights of the expelled members, including their rights to equality, free speech and expression and life under articles 14, 19 and 21 respectively.
Both the leaders were suspended from the SP on February 2 for alleged anti-party activities.
They had pleaded before the Supreme Court that the provisions of the Tenth Schedule, which deals with disqualification of MPs, are not applicable to the expelled members of a political party.
Challenging the apex court's 1996 verdict, the leaders had contended that the court had erroneously interpreted the Tenth Schedule, while holding that its provisions apply even to the expelled members if they join a new political party.
They had submitted that the Viswanathan case ruling had also led to an anomalous situation where a party makes its expelled member abide by its whip even after expelling him from the party and the failure to adhere to such whip results in disqualification of the expelled member from the House.
In their petition, they had submitted the ruling in the Viswanathan case render them ineligible from both joining or forming a new political party due to the fear of disqualification under Clause 2(1)(a) of the anti-defection law.