The Supreme Court on Friday, 28 January, ruled in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party, terming the year-long suspension of 12 BJP MLAs from the Maharashtra Assembly 'unconstitutional' and 'arbitrary.'
A bench headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar observed that the 'illegal' suspension could have been for one session of the house, declaring it ineffective.
Reacting to the SC ruling, former CM of Maharashtra and Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the assembly Devendra Fadnavis welcomed the decision by calling it 'historic' and 'democracy-saving'.
The suspensions had come after the legislators misbehaved with the then Speaker-in-Chair Bhaskar Jadhav, accusing him of not giving them sufficient time to speak.
The penalised legislators included Ashish Shelar, Girish Mahajan, Atul Bhatkalkar, Jaykumar Rawal, Yogesh Sagar, Narayan Kuch, Abhimanyu Pawar, Sanjay Kute, Ram Satpute, Parag Alvani, Kirtikumar Bhangadiya, and Harish Pimpale.
Previously, on 19 January, the apex court had reserved the order in the matter.
'No Justification for Suspension,' Say Petitioners
Senior advocates Mahesh Jethmalani, Mukul Rohatgi, Neeraj Kishan Kaul, and Siddharth Bhatnagar, assisted by advocates Siddharth Dharmadhikari and Abhikalp Pratap Singh, had argued for the suspended legislators.
Meanwhile, representing the Maharashtra administration, Senior advocate CA Sundaram argued that the act of suspending a member from the Legislative Assembly for one year is not unconstitutional, to which the petitioners responded that there was no justification for the suspension.
Rohatgi emphasised that 'the decision of one-year suspension is grossly irrational, as there was non-compliance with natural justice', IANS reported.
The petitioners' counsel also reportedly contended that exercising 'inherent power' in the house goes contrary to the values of the constitution.
Amid the hearing, the top court observed that the suspension dated July 2021 was "worse than expulsion."
Fadnavis, Nawab Malik React
Following the ruling, Maharashtra Minister Nawab Malik stated,
"After the legislature secretariat (of state) receives the Supreme Court judgment copy, it will examine it and the Speaker will take the final decision. It is not a question of just Maharashtra but of Parliament, of Assemblies across the country."Nawab Malik
Meanwhile, LoP Devendra Fadnavis hailed the decision, calling the ruling MVA government 'dictatorial'.
"The SC has ensured that the anti-democratic, unlawful, illegal, and unilateral decisions will not be tolerated," Fadnavis tweeted in Marathi.
Stressing that the SC has 'backed their belief', he added, "This was not just about the 12 MLAs, but about the 50 lakh voters from the constituencies. The democracy has been safeguarded once again."
(With inputs from IANS.)