Explained: For how long can an MLA be suspended?

News: 12 Maharashtra BJP MLAs have gone to Supreme Court against their year-long suspension from the Assembly.

What is the background of this issue?

The leader of Opposition in Maharashtra objected to an attempt by a state minister to table a resolution demanding that the Centre release data on Other Backward Classes (OBCs), so that seats could be reserved for them in local bodies in Maharashtra.

This created a huge row between the ruling party and the opposition party. Subsequently, Maharashtra Parliamentary Affairs Minister moved a resolution to suspend 12 BJP MLAs.

Following this incident, the suspended MLAs filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court last year against the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly and the State of Maharashtra and asked for the suspension to be quashed.

What is the argument laid down by the suspended MLAs?

According to them, suspension is “grossly arbitrary and disproportionate”. Because they were not given access to video of the proceedings of the House, and it was not clear how they had been identified in the large crowd. Therefore, it amounts to

Denial of the principles of natural justice

Violation of laid-down procedure.

Violation of their fundamental right to equality (Article 14)

Also, it was against Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Rules (53): Because, the power to suspend can only be exercised by the Speaker, and it cannot be put to vote in a resolution as was done in this case.

What has Maharashtra said in its defence?

It denies any violation of Article 14: The secretary of the state’s Parliamentary Affairs Department has pointed to the “undisciplined and unbecoming behaviour” of the 12 MLAs. It has also pointed the apology made by Leader of Opposition.

Within Legislative competence: The state has also referred to Article 194 on the powers and privileges of the House, and argued that any member who transgresses the legislative privileges can be suspended through the inherent powers of the House.

It has denied that the power to suspend a member can be exercised only through Rule 53 of the Assembly.

Invoked separation of power principle: It has stated that, under Article 212, courts do not have jurisdiction to inquire into the proceedings of the legislature.

For Supreme Court’s ruling on the issue of suspension, click here


What are the rules on the length of suspension of a Member of Parliament?

Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha (Rules 373, 374, and 374A):  It provides for the withdrawal of a member whose conduct is “grossly disorderly”, and suspension of one who abuses the rules of the House or wilfully obstructs its business.

Maximum suspension:

– Lok Sabha: it is for five consecutive sittings or the remainder of the session, whichever is less.

– Rajya Sabha: under Rules 255 and 256, maximum suspension does not exceed the remainder of the session.

– State legislative assemblies and councils: Prescribe a maximum suspension not exceeding the remainder of the session.

Source: This post is based on the article “Explained: For how long can an MLA be suspended?” published in The Indian Express on 15th Jan 2022.

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