Courts Update Supreme Court issues notice in plea challenging Manipur High...

Supreme Court issues notice in plea challenging Manipur High Court’s order upholding Speaker’s decision

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New Delhi Aug 25(ILNS): The Supreme Court today issued a notice on a plea filed by Kshetrimayum Biren Singh, Yengkhom Surchandra Singh & Sanasam Biren Singh assailing Manipur High Court’s order of upholding the Speaker’s decision of disqualifying them.

Former Attorney General of India and Senior Advocate Mukul Rohtagi appeared on behalf of the petitioners seeking to stay on the Manipur High Court’s order. He submitted that nobody has been heard, nobody has appeared and he raised a question that why nobody is appearing? Nothing is proved, no evidence has been taken. He further read about the postponement of the matter and then re-scheduling of the matter all of a sudden without proper Intimation. 

The disqualification cases were fixed to heard on June 17, 2020, but on the direction of the Speaker, it was postponed to June 22, 2020, on the ground of the Speaker’s illness. 

Subsequently, on June 17, 2020, the said disqualification cases were again re-scheduled on June 18, 2020, as directed by the Speaker for early disposal of the cases in view of the urgency of the matter and also in view of the improvement of the Speaker’s health conditions. Thereafter, on June 18, 2020, the disqualification cases have proceeded ex-parte and the same was disposed of by a common order dated June 18, 2020, passed in the 3 disqualification cases thereby holding that the K Biren had incurred disqualification for being a member of the Manipur Legislative Assembly in terms of Para 2 (1) (a) of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution of India read with Article 191 (2) of the Constitution of India and further holding that the K Biren ceased to be a member of the Manipur Legislative Assembly with effect from June 18, 2020, till the expiry of the term of the 11th Legislative Assembly of Manipur.

Rohtagi along with Advocate SK Bhattacharya submitted that “the early scheduling should not have been fixed in the first place and the notice was served to us late at 1:00 am via Whatsapp, that is the reason we have already taken this position. Nobody was aware and immediately it was fixed. It happened because the Rajya Sabha Election was on the 19th. So, therefore it was all deliberate.” 

The Bench said, “you could have appeared before the speaker and taken time. If you are aware of the preponement what steps did you take? You have to defend the case.”

Rohtagi submitted that while reading the Written statement by them, “There two flaws in the order, there is no denial in regard to the newspapers, I have not admitted the same and second, they require an actual proof. It is there in the written statement that this is concocted and there are some videos, there is no certificate under Section 65B is required. Nothing.”  

Additional Advocate General Linen Singh appeared on behalf of the Solicitor General, Tushar Mehta as he was busy in the other court. 

Advocate Linen while defending the Speaker in the matter submitted while reading the order that “the other MLAs in the other disqualification matter had voluntarily resigned and the High court has noted the same (Para 33 of the judgment).”

The bench questioned, “Tell us what was the mode of proof available to the speaker when he relied upon these Newspaper reports.”

Linen – “As per the instruction are concerned, the original record of the the speaker was placed before the High Court (paragraph 44 of the order).”

Bench- “no no you are appearing for the speaker, you are appearing of the very obvious whose actions are actually in question. So, therefore we are asking you as counsel. Did the applicant in the disqualification case give any mode of proof to these newspapers/photographs or your assessment was completely based upon the newspaper reports? Every newspaper is identical to the other one, when you say original newspaper what does it mean? We are asking you what is the mode of proof? Was the person concerned with the newspaper was correspondent, the photographer who was supposed to have taken that particular picture which is flashed in the newspaper came up before the speaker, filed any affidavit?”

Linen “It appears to be that.

Bench “we get this, we are simply saying that can you rely on the newspaper report which is unauthenticated”

Linen what happens is the person who has himself attended is not a part of the record but it appears to me that what the Speaker has done is he had taken cognizance from the Ravi Naik judgment. They were also wearing BJP color caps and apparel” 

Bench- “Now Ravi Naik is a different issue altogether, it did not go clearly on lack of denial. Apart from lack of denial, there are other causes as well and in this case, whether that denial is sufficient or not is a matter of assessment. See, you are gone about as if the presence of neither the applicant nor the persons who are supposed to be defendants are even necessary and the matter stands in the capacity of Res Ipsa Loquitur. So, therefore, those photographs are supposed to be the fulcrum of everything. But nobody has said these photos are genuine, there is no matter as proof.”

The Writ Petition was filed in Manipur High Court which had disqualified Shri Kshetrimayum Biren Singh for being a member of the Manipur Legislative Assembly in terms of Para 2 (1) (a) of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution of India, challenging the order of the speaker on the following grounds-that the Speaker passed the order dated 18.06.2020 in gross violation of the Principle of Natural Justice. The conduct of the Speaker in passing the order dated 18.06.2020 has demonstrated malafide. That the Speaker has been motivated by perversity while passing the said order and that the Speaker has violated the Constitutional mandate.

Mr. K Biren contested the election as a candidate sponsored by the Indian National Congress (INC) on the election symbol of the Indian National Congress (INC). The result was declared on March 11, 2016, and therefore, K Biren was declared as an elected member of the 11th Manipur Legislative Assembly as a Legislator of the Indian National Congress (INC). Thereafter, on March 19, 2017, K Biren was sworn in as a member of the 11th Manipur Legislative Assembly by the Pro-Tem Speaker as an elected member from the Indian National Congress (INC).

Subsequently, 3 disqualification cases were filed against K Biren before the Speaker, Manipur Legislative Assembly, praying for initiating disqualification proceedings against him and to pass an appropriate order declaring that K Biren stands disqualified under Article 191 (2) of the Constitution of India and Para 2 (1) (a) of the Tenth Schedule to the Constitution of India and further to declare the seat of 8-Lamlai Assembly Constituency as vacant.

As of July 15, 2017, it was alleged that K Biren along with another MLA of Congress (INC) Shri PaonamBrojen voluntarily gave up their membership of Congress (INC) and gave his support to the ruling party i.e., Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the purpose of strengthening the coalition government led by the BJP. It is also alleged that he along with the other aforesaid MLA of INC were facilitated by performing a reception ceremony hosted by the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Manipur, Shri N. Biren Singh and that the said the reception ceremony was covered and published in many Local/National Newspapers and Electronic media and K Biren had also participated in various political works and programs hosted by the BJP by wearing the apparel meant for the BJP and such programs in which the writ petitioner participated were reported in the public domain in various Local/National Newspapers and electronic media. 

The Petitioner is the disqualification case filed a petition dated February 7, 2020, bringing on record a DVD, photographs and a letter addressed to the Chief Minister of Manipur, wherein K Biren is also one of the signatories, demanding for a major/total reshuffle of Ministers before 15.01.2020 to ensure the return of all the seating MLAs. Likewise, it was also contended by the other petitioners in the Disqualification case that K Biren is seen in the rally of BJP along with the Hon’ble PM, CM of Manipur, and other ministers of BJP, which is against the interest of Congress. 

There are 15 in total disqualification cases filed against the 7 MLAs including K Biren.

The Bench further held that issue notice returnable on September 29. Mr. Linen accepts the notice on behalf of the Hon’ble Speaker. 2 weeks time for reply and 2weeks after for re-joinder.”

Matter to be listed for final disposal on 29th September 2021./ILNS/KR/SNG

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