Maharashtra MLA Suspension
Ashish Shelar v Maharashtra Legislative Assembly
The Supreme Court will decide whether the parliamentary resolution suspending 12 MLA’s from the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly for a year violates the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Rules. Further, the Court will decide the balance between the speakers power to maintain the decorum of the house and MLAs' right to freely express themselves.
Petitioner: Ashish Shelar; Atul Bhatkhalkar; Abhimanyu D Pawar
Lawyers: Mukul Rohatgi; Abhikalp Pratap Singh
Respondent: Maharashtra Legislative Assembly; State of Maharashtra
Lawyers: Dushyant Dave; Sachin Patil
Whether the speaker violated the principles of natural justice by not giving the MLAs a chance to be heard?
Whether the legislative resolution suspending the MLAs for a year was excessive?
Whether the suspension violates the MLAs freedom of speech and expression?
On July 5th 2021, a resolution was introduced in the Maharashtra Assembly seeking the release of empirical data on Other Backward Classes for the purpose of political reservations in local elections. The Speaker-in-Chair, Bhaskar Jadhav of the Shiv Sena, allowed the resolution to be tabled. However, before the resolution could be read out, a group of MLAs from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) attempted to pull up the microphone and the Speaker’s mace.
The Speaker-in-Chair briefly adjourned the House, following which a group of BJP MLAs reportedly used abusive language, threatened and manhandled him inside the Deputy Speaker’s chambers. The Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Anil Parab of the Shiv Sena, moved a resolution to suspend 12 of these members for a period of one year and restrict their entry into the Legislature. The majority of the House passed the resolution.
The 12 MLAs challenged the suspension in the Supreme Court on July 22nd 2021, arguing that the Speaker had exercised his quasi-judicial power arbitrarily. They argued that they were not given a chance to be heard before being suspended, which ignored the principles of natural justice and violated their right to free speech.
Further, they argued that the resolution violated Rule 53 of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Rules, 2015 (the Rules). Rule 53 allows the Speaker to direct any member to withdraw from the remainder of the session on the grounds of grossly disorderly conduct. This rule does not allow for one year suspensions.
The State of Maharashtra argued that the Rules would not apply in this situation as the suspension was done through a parliamentary resolution, not in exercise of the Speaker’s Rule 53 powers.
The Supreme Court delivered its Judgment on 28th January 2022. It held that the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly’s resolution suspending the MLAs for one year was illegal, unreasonable and unconstitutional. Justice Khanwilkar observed that the Assembly’s power to suspend members is a ‘self-security’ power to maintain order in the House. It cannot be used to punish disorderly MLAs with suspensions exceeding the amount of time necessary to restore order in the House.