Maharashtra crisis: Why the 2016 Nabam Rebia ruling has been referred to a 7-judge Bench

Source: The post is based on the article “Maharashtra crisis: Why the 2016 Nabam Rebia ruling has been referred to a 7-judge Bench” published in Indian Express on 13th May 2023

What is the News?

The Supreme Court has decided to refer to a larger bench its 2016 ruling in the Nabam Rebia case. 

What is the Nabam Rebia case?

In Nabam Rebia vs Deputy Speaker, Arunachal Legislative Assembly (2016), the Supreme Court had ruled that it would be constitutionally impermissible for a Speaker of the House to adjudicate upon disqualification petitions under the anti-defection law as per Tenth Schedule while a motion of resolution for his/her own removal from Office of Speaker is pending.

How was Nabam Rebia case used in the Maharashtra political crisis case?

One group had cited the Nabam Rebia ruling when the crisis unfolded in June 2022 in Maharashtra to contend that the Deputy Speaker cannot proceed under the Tenth Schedule against the dissident Sena MLAs as a notice seeking his removal was pending.

Contesting this, the other camp had told the Bench that by invoking it, MLAs who want to defect can pre-empt and stall disqualification proceedings against them by seeking the Speaker’s removal through a notice. Hence, they urged the court to refer Nabam Rebia to a seven-judge Bench.

Why did the court refer the Nabam Rebia case to a larger bench?

The Supreme Court has referred the Nabam Rabia case to a larger bench as some aspects were not considered in the Nabam Rebia judgment.

Among them was whether temporary disablement of the Speaker is prone to misuse by MLAs who anticipate disqualification petitions against them, or by MLAs against whom disqualification petitions have already been instituted.

The court further said that the Nabam Rebia verdict was in conflict with a 1992 constitution bench judgment in the Kihoto Hollohan case.

While the Nabam Rebia verdict doubted the ability of the speaker to remain neutral while deciding disqualification petitions after a resolution to remove them is moved, the Kihoto Hollohan order of the SC had stated there was no reason to doubt the independence and impartiality of the Speaker when adjudicating such proceedings under the Tenth Schedule.

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