NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Tuesday agreed to consider listing the plea of a Maharashtra BJP MLA challenging the validity of new rules of 'open voting method' to elect the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the state Assembly.
A bench comprising Chief Justice N V Ramana and Justices A S Bopanna and Hima Kohli took note of the submissions of senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing for lawmaker Girish Mahajan, that the plea needed urgent hearing in view of the changes made in the process for electing the Speaker and Deputy Speaker.
"This is regarding the election of the Speaker in Maharashtra Legislative Assembly. I am an MLA," the bench said.
"Let me see," the CJI said.
The matter was mentioned for urgent listing before a bench headed by Justice Uday Umesh Lalit on Monday and the MLA was asked to mention it before the bench headed by the CJI.
Mahajan has challenged the Bombay High Court's March 9 order dismissing his plea against the new rules envisaging the open voting method' to elect the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the Assembly.
Mahajan has alleged that the notification dated December 23, 2021 was "illegally and arbitrarily" issued by the Maharashtra government amending Rules 6 and 7 of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Rule, 1960, under which the secret ballot method was replaced with an open vote system through voice vote and show of hands.
The appeal filed through advocates Abhikalp Pratap Singh and Siddharth Dharmadhikari said that the Bombay High Court had dismissed on March 9 the PIL filed by Mahajan that raised several substantial questions of laws having an impact on the general public at large.
The appeal questioned whether Maharashtra Assembly Rules, 1960 are procedures established by law as held by this court in a plethora of cases.
"Whether the Governor of State has discretionary powers insofar as fixing the date for the election of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the State Legislative Assembly is concerned?" the appeal said.
It said that another substantial question of law raised is whether the chief minister of a state can exercise any power under the Constitution of India without aid and advice of the Council of Ministers? The appeal further said, "Whether the Deputy Speaker of the Legislative Assembly can be selected by the Chief Minister of state?" "The petitioner furthermost respectfully states that the Speaker and Deputy Speaker have a very significant role in the healthy functioning of the democratic process in the state and they are constitutionally expected to be free, fair and non-partisan persons operating above any political party", it said.
It added that the office of Speaker of the Assembly has a duty to be impartial and unbiased to keep the trust of the general public in the process of democracy.
"Further, the Speakers/Chairmen hold a pivotal position in the scheme of Parliamentary democracy and are guardians of the rights and privileges of the House. They are expected to and do take far-reaching decisions in the functioning of Parliamentary democracy," the appeal said.
Mahajan through his appeal said that the MLA Rules are procedures established by law and cannot be derogated by the Assembly and such rules can only be amended as per the procedure established under the rules as applicable in the Maharashtra Assembly.
"The petitioner further submits that the Impugned Notification has been wrongly issued exercising powers under Rule 225 (3) of the MLA Rules which envisages a situation that there were no objections received by the committee to the proposed amendments," the petition said, and termed it erroneous.
It stressed that 47 objections/suggestions were received by the committee.
However, they were completely made redundant and ignored by the committee.
It added that once any objection/suggestions are received, the procedure to be followed for the amendment to be passed has been envisaged under 225 (2) of the MLA Rules 1960.
"However, instead of following the procedure under Rule 225 (2) and passing the amendment under the said rule, the respondents have mischievously exercised its powers under Rule 225(3) to issue the impugned notification", the appeal said.
Mahajan said the High Court while dismissing the PIL had observed that the rules do not specify anywhere that the chief minister is unilaterally taking a decision to appoint Speaker and Deputy Speaker and that he is taking the decision on the date of the election.
"The copy of the impugned order is not yet available and the petitioner undertakes to place on record the impugned order as and when it is available," he said in his appeal.