NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Tuesday asked the Madhya Pradesh Assembly Speaker to apprise it by next week as to when he would decide the disqualification petitions against 22 Congress MLAs who switched sides to the ruling Bhartiya Janta Party.
A bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, while hearing a plea filed by Congress MLA Vinay Saxena, said the "speaker has to only make a statement as to when these applications will be decided".
At the outset, senior advocate Vivek Tankha, appearing for Saxena, said that disqualification petitions are pending with the Speaker since March 12.
He said the speaker has to pass an order on disqualification petitions otherwise some of them will continue to be ministers in the state government.
"We want that the speaker should decide these petitions within a week," Tankha said.
The bench noted that a letter for adjournment of the hearing in the matter has been circulated among the parties.
Counsel appearing for Vidhan Sabha secretariat said that they have been served the copy of petition Monday evening only and three weeks be given to them to respond.
"We understand the request for time but you only have to make a statement when it will be decided," the bench said.
The counsel replied that he was appearing for Vidhan Sabha secretariat and not the Speaker.
To this, the bench observed, "We don't see any practical difference between the Vidhan Sabha and the Speaker".
The counsel for Vidhan Sabha then sought two weeks' time to respond.
The bench then asked the lawyers appearing in the matter as to who was appearing for the Speaker.
A lawyer said that he was to appear for the Speaker but had been discharged on Monday.
The bench then posted the matter for next week and said that the Speaker should make a statement on deciding the disqualification applications.
On August 17, the top court had sought response from the office of the speaker on the plea of Saxena which had contended that Congress MLAs, who have resigned to join BJP, cannot be appointed as ministers in the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government, during the pendency of their disqualification proceedings.
The plea had said that as per the apex court verdict in Manipur case, the disqualification proceedings have to be decided within a period of three months by the speaker.
It had said that during the pendency of these disqualification applications, 12 out of 22 Congress MLAs who have resigned to join BJP have been appointed as ministers in the state government.
The plea said that the disqualification petitions have been pending against the rebel MLAs since March 12 but no proceedings have been initiated till now and the delay will amount to virtually defeating the very purpose of anti-defection law.
On June 2, Chouhan carried out a major expansion of his cabinet, including 28 new members, a dozen of them former Congress MLAs whose rebellion contributed to the collapse of Kamal Nath led Congress government in the state.