SC to hear plea to decide on disqualification petition against 10 Goa MLAs

Supreme Court
The Supreme Court Tuesday agreed to hear a plea seeking direction to the Goa Assembly Speaker to decide within one month the disqualification petition against 10 MLAs, including three incumbent ministers, who had joined the BJP in July last year.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde sought responses within four weeks from the office of the Assembly speaker and the 10 MLAs on a plea filed by Girish Chodankar, the President of Goa Pradesh Congress Committee.

"Issue notice returnable in four weeks," said the bench, also comprising Justices M R Shah and A S Bopanna, conducting the matter through video-conferencing.

In his plea filed through advocate Sahil Tagotra, Chodankar has sought directions to restrain these 10 MLAs from participating in Assembly proceedings during the pendency of the disqualification petition.

The plea has also sought the apex court's direction to restrain three MLAs -- Chandrakant Kavalekar, Jennifer Monserrate and Filipe Rodrigues -- from functioning as ministers in Goa during the pendency of disqualification petition.

Chodankar has alleged in his plea that in July last year these 10 MLAs, purportedly claiming to form a two-third of Indian National Congress (INC), "decided to merge the said legislature party with the BJP" and accordingly addressed a communication to that effect to the speaker.

The plea said that based on the communication, the speaker was pleased to take note of the "alleged merger of INC's legislative party in the Goa Legislative Assembly, and allotted these ten MLA's seats in the Assembly along with the members of the BJP".

It said that nine out of these 10 had contested as Congress candidates and were elected as MLA in the 2017 Assembly elections. It said one of these 10 had contested as Congress candidate and was elected as MLA in the 2019 Assembly bye-election.

In his plea, Chodankar said he had filed a disqualification petition on August 8, 2019, before the speaker and had contended that these MLAs "had ex-facie incurred disqualification under Article 191(2) of the Constitution, read with para 2 of the Tenth Schedule, and are liable to be disqualified as a member of the Legislative Assembly".

The petitioner said the matter was heard on February 13 this year but he has neither received any communication from the office of speaker nor has he been intimated of any order being passed on the disqualification petition.

Referring to an apex court judgement, the plea said the speaker is required to decide a petition of this nature "within a reasonable period of time, and in any case, absent exceptional circumstances, within a period of 3 months".

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