March 25, 2023

Don’t suspend MLAs, MPs indiscriminately: Parliament, legislatures must heed SC’s observations

Supreme Court has rightly called into question the Maharashtra assembly’s decision to suspend 12 BJP MLAs for one year for alleged misbehaviour with the presiding officer. The SC noted constitutional provisions that do not allow a constituency to be vacant for more than six months thereby requiring Election Commission to hold elections, saying suspensions beyond this period is “irrational and unconstitutional”. At the same time, SC also underscored that suspensions are best restricted to the ongoing session of the house and not beyond that as the intent is to secure the smooth functioning of the house.

Evidently, there is the risk of governments with a slim majority or those governments with an autocratic bent using the suspension rule to keep house members out of action to ensure passage of legislation. Disruptions have virtually become the norm whenever opposition, irrespective of party, feel the treasury benches aren’t allowing them to raise pertinent issues. Unfortunately, this can also have the effect of not allowing the government to transact legislative business. Not yielding to the opposition’s demands for debate is just as bad.

Recently, the Rajya Sabha had suspended 12 opposition MPs for the winter session for indiscipline committed during the monsoon session. The SC’s observations that action against legislators is best restricted to the ongoing session is interesting in this context. With the political polarisation worsening, SC’s ongoing hearings in the Maharashtra matter will hopefully lead to more civility in Parliament and legislatures.

Read also: Can’t suspend MLAs for over 6 months, says SC



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