BJP disqualifies 6 MLAs, seeks removal of another from House18 November 2011
The Daily Excelsior
Jammu: In a first decision of its kind in history of the Assembly, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) today disqualified six MLAs from membership of the Legislative Assembly for indulging in cross voting in April 13 Legislative Council election in favour of National Conference and Congress. The BJP has written to Assembly Speaker Mohammad Akbar Lone apprising him of the decision to disqualify six MLAs. Mr Lone, however, told the Excelsior that he would announce his verdict on disqualification petition of BJP MLAs on December 1 or later after taking all legal aspects into account. BJP Legislature Party leader and MLA Nagrota Jugal Kishore today disqualified six party MLAs under Para 2 (b) of Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir read with Rule 3(6) of the Members of the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly (disqualification on the ground of defection) Rules. The MLAs disqualified today by Mr Kishore included Bharat Bhushan (Domana Reserve Assembly segment), Gharu Ram Bhagat (RS Pura Reserve), Durga Dass (Hiranagar Reserve), Baldev Raj Sharma (Reasi), Jagdish Sapolia (Basohli) and Master Lal Chand (Bani). Prof Chaman Lal Gupta, who has already been expelled by the BJP high command as BJP Legislature Party leader as well as from the party, was not disqualified today by Mr Kishore on the ground that he stood expelled from the BJP and, therefore, the party has no control over him since he was not a member of the party now. The BJP has already taken up the issue with the Speaker for disqualification of Prof Gupta from the Assembly since he was no more a BJP leader. Excelsior had in its edition on October 8 exclusively reported that the BJP Parliamentary Board had expelled all seven MLAs from the party and decided to disqualify them ahead of party veteran leader LK Advani’s ‘Jan Chetna Yatra’. The BJP today sent copies of disqualification of six MLAs from the Assembly to the Speaker and Secretary Legislative Assembly and Election Commission of India besides six disqualified MLAs. Once the Speaker declared six Assembly seats held by the disqualified MLAs as vacant, the Election Commission had to conduct a by-election to them within six months. Speaker Mohammad Akbar Lone said he and his Assembly Secretariat have received the letter written by Jugal Kishore on disqualification of six MLAs. 'I have processed the letter. I will issue show cause notices to all six MLAs apprising them of the charges leveled against them by the party and seeking explanation from them. After receiving reply to show cause notices, I will announce my decision somewhere around December 1 or later’’, Mr Lone said. He added that he would also take the legal opinion and the court orders on a petition filed by Prof Chaman Lal Gupta into account before announcing his decision. The Speaker assured both sides that due legal procedures and disqualification rules prevailing in Jammu and Kashmir would be taken into account before taking a decision on fate of six BJP MLAs. On Prof Gupta’s fate, the Speaker said a decision would also be taken after studying the High Court order from where he had obtained stay on his expulsion from the party. The BJP leaders, however, insisted that their battery of lawyers in New Delhi have studied in detail the Anti-Defection Law of Jammu and Kashmir, which was amended during the Ghulam Nabi Azad led Congress-PDP coalition Government and came to the conclusion that powers for disqualification of party MLAs on defying party whip were vested with the Legislature Party leader on the sufficient ground of anti-party activities. Sources within the BJP said the disqualification letter sent to six MLAs besides the Assembly Speaker, Secretary and the Election Commission of India was issued mentioning BJP chief whip and City East MLA Ashok Khajuria as the petitioner before Legislature Party leader Jugal Kishore, had been drafted by the BJP lawyers in New Delhi to leave no scope for the disqualified legislators to get relief from any quarter. However, all six MLAs have decided to challenge the decision of Jugal Kishore before the court as well as the Speaker in a bid to keep their membership intact. Sources admitted that the party first had to disqualify Prof Gupta and then expel him from the party. However, it expelled him from the party first leaving no scope for his disqualification by Jugal Kishore as Prof Gupta was now not a member of the BJP. For getting Prof Gupta disqualified from the Assembly, the BJP would now pursue the case with the Speaker citing Rules and Anti-Defection Law that since Gupta (MLA Jammu West) has been disqualified from the party, he automatically stood disqualified as a member of the House and the Speaker should issue an order to this respect. The Speaker pointed out that Prof Gupta’s case was sub-judice and he would take decision after going through all aspects. The disqualification order issued by Jugal Kishore read 'from the perusal of the disqualification petition filed by Ashok Khajuria, the enquiry report submitted by a committee of the party constituted after April 13 cross voting and relevant material available on record, I am satisfied that Respondents 2 to 7 namely Bharat Bushan, Prof Gharu Ram Bhagat, Durga Dass, Baldev Raj Sharma, Jagdish Sapolia and Lal Chand on 13-4-2011 at the time of election of members to the Jammu and Kashmir Vidhan Parishad (Legislative Council) voted contrary to the whip issued by their original political party i.e. the BJP. 'As such they have incurred disqualification under Para 2(b) of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir read with Rule 3(6) of the Members of the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly (Disqualification on the ground of defection) Rules. Therefore, exercising my powers given to me by the seventh Schedule to the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, I hereby declare all six MLAs disqualified from being the member of the Vidhan Sabha (Legislative Assembly) of the State of Jammu and Kashmir with immediate effect’’. According to party sources, the disqualification letter had been prepared by the BJP high command nearly a month ago and sent to the State leadership for formal announcement ahead of BJP leader L K Advani’s ‘Jan Chetna Yatra’ against corruption to give a strong message countrywide that the BJP was not going to tolerate any kind of corruption within the party. The BJP Parliamentary Board, as exclusively reported by the Excelsior, had on October 8 expelled all seven MLAs from the party. However, according to sources, the local unit of the BJP including Jugal Kishore, Ashok Khajuria and State BJP president Shamsher Singh Manhas continued to indulge in dilly dallying tactics to delay the matter fearing retaliation from the expelled group of MLAs and exposure of their 'misdeeds’’. Even a decision was conveyed to the State leadership of the party to announce the decision a week ahead of arrival of Advani’s yatra in Jammu but again the announcement was delayed by the State leadership, sources said, adding it was after the firm announcement of former Union Law Minister and BJP leader Arun Jaitley in the rally that no leniency would be shown with the MLAs, who had indulged in cross-voting, that the State leadership had to formally make public the disqualification of six MLAs. Even after signing and sending the letters to concerned MLAs, the Speaker, the Secretary Assembly and the Election Commission, entire top leadership of the party left the State for Nagpur to attend a RSS function. Any senior party leader did not make a formal announcement of such an important decision. Sources said the State BJP leaders feared that their acts now would be openly exposed by the disqualified MLAs and it was due to this fact that they were delaying the issuance of letter as well as making an announcement themselves. When approached for comments, former Union Minister Prof Chaman Lal Gupta, MLA Jammu West, claimed that the Speaker had accepted him as Leader of BJP Legislature Party and the court had stayed his expulsion. He said today’s order issued by Jugal Kishore has no locus standi since Mr Kishore has not been recognized as the BJP leader in the Assembly. More over, Prof Gupta added, he was duly elected as the BJP leader by all 11 MLAs and hadn’t been removed through a no confidence motion as yet. Sources said this is probably for the first time in the Legislative Assembly that the party has disqualified six BJP MLAs and another one was facing disqualification. In 2009, Congress had disqualified party leader Ashok Sharma from membership of the Legislative Council for defying party directions and contesting Assembly election from Kalakote as an Independent candidate against Abdul Gani Kohli. The then Congress Legislature Party leader in Upper House Gulchain Singh Charak had disqualified Ashok Sharma from membership of the Council. In the disqualification order, running into 11 pages, Jugal Kishore mentioned in detail the show cause notices sent to seven MLAs through Speed Posts mentioning numbers of the Original Speed Post receipts, which were never replied. He said the MLAs didn’t appear before him for replying to the charges leveled against him by Ashok Khajuria, chief whip of the party that the MLAs had defied the whip in the Legislative Council elections. He referred to repeated sending of notices but in vain. He also made a mention of the writ petition filed in the court by Prof Gupta and an inquiry orders by the party high command into cross voting. Jugal Kishore said the Rules and Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir authorized the Leader of the Legislative Party to decide the disqualification. He mentioned Paragraphs 3,4 and 5 which stated that if a MLA votes or abstained from voting contrary to any direction issued by the political party to which he belonged without obtaining the prior permission of the party, the person or authority and any such voting or abstention has not been condoned, the MLA stood disqualified. He said Mr Khajuria filed a disqualification petition against the MLAs on 23-5-2011 upon which notices were sent to the MLAs but the latter didn’t respond. He added that the MLAs invited disqualification as the party did not condone their act. The election to six seats of Legislative Council was held on April 13 this year. While five seats were won by NC-Congress coalition, one seat was captured by the PDP. BJP candidate Ranjit Singh polled only four votes notwithstanding the fact that the party had 11 MLAs. Seven MLAs of the BJP had cross voted for National Conference and Congress candidates leading to their comfortable victory. Of seven BJP MLAs facing disqualification three each have been elected from Jammu and Kathua districts and one from Reasi. The seats include Jammu West, Domana Reserve, RS Pura Reserve in Jammu district, Hiranagar Reserve, Bani and Basohli in Kathua district and Reasi. Sources said only when the Speaker declared the seats as vacant after disqualifying the MLAs that the Election Commission could set the process for by-election into motion. The by-election had to be conducted within six months of the seat being declared as vacant. The BJP had won 11 seats in November-December 2008 Assembly elections as against just one in previous House riding on the wave of Amarnath land agitation. Of 10 seats, it had wrested nine from Congress and only one (Marh) from National Conference. All six MLAs, who have been disqualified by the BJP and lone MLA, whose disqualification has been sought from the Speaker, had wrested seats from the Congress.