‘Only Speaker can decide on members’ disqualification’

The members say that the party is split, but there is no such claim inside the House.
says Speaker of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Rahul Narwekar
says Speaker of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Rahul Narwekar

Maharashtra and state legislators have been witnessing historically unprecedented situations, says Speaker of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Rahul Narwekar, an advocate, in this exclusive interview with TNIE correspondent Sudhir Suryawanshi. Narwekar says the disqualification of MLAs will be decided by the Speaker of the House and not the Supreme Court. He says the Shiv Sena is the ruling party in the Lower House, but also the main opposition party in the Upper House. The members say that the party is split, but there is no such claim inside the House.

What is your view on the petitions and hearings in the Supreme Court on the disqualification of 16 Shiv Sena MLAs?
The challenge before the apex court is how to interpret the provisions and articles given in the Constitution, Schedule 10 and raised issues. One of the issues is whether disqualification should be directly decided by the SC. But the law is clear. Disqualification of elected members is the prerogative of the Assembly Speaker. I think, in hearings in the Supreme Court, the same views have been expressed. Once the Speaker decides, the other party can exercise its remedial options given in the Constitution.

There was also an argument in the court whether we can rewind the clock and bring back the Uddhav Thackeray government and erstwhile presiding officer Narhari Zirwal as Deputy Speaker in the Assembly...
Yes, there was a demand that the Deputy Speaker, who was the presiding officer, should be allowed to hear the petitions and take decisions over the disqualification of 16 MLAs, but as per my knowledge, it is not legally tenable. The Deputy Speaker only performs the duty of presiding officer when the Speaker’s post is vacant. You cannot retrospectively ask someone and decide simply because when a matter was filed, he was the presiding officer. There are several occasions when the matter is filed before someone and the petitions are held by other person who was in the presiding officer’s chair. 

There are no records of such a complex and unprecedented situation in the Maharashtra Assembly... 
The situation we are witnessing in the legislature is kind of unprecedented. Shiv Sena is the ruling party in the Lower House, but it is also the main opposition in the Upper House. Then, there is the claim of a split in the party outside the House. But there is no such record on the proceedings of the House. Neither factions nor any individuals have claimed that there is a split in the party. But having said that, parliamentary democracy and the systems are strong and ever-evolving. Many a time, we see situations as first-time occurrences and it is a kind of learning that leads to good laws and strengthens our system. So, law and, for that matter, better law always evolves. 

The Supreme Court has asked not to take decisions over disqualification of MLAs of the Uddhav Thackeray faction that have been removed by the Eknath Shinde faction over anti-party activities. Now, the budget session is on and the whip by the Shinde faction has already been issued. If they move disqualification petitions against MLAs of the Uddhav faction, how do you handle the situation?
I as a Speaker have not received any letter or intimation. Even the state legislation has not got any such paper, saying the injunctive order has been passed by the Supreme Court. However, I read in media reports that the party that represents the faction has made an assurance that they would not issue the whip and initiate the disqualification actions for a certain period of time. But I am not aware about the factual positions with regards to this development. 

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