Top Court Declines To Stay Disqualification Of Six Congress Rebels, Next Hearing On May 6

The six MLAs, one of them a former minister, had cross-voted in favour of the BJP candidate for the lone Rajya Sabha seat in Himachal Pradesh last month.

Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu Photo: PTI

Causing a fresh blow to six disqualified Congress MLAs, the Supreme Court on Monday declined to grant them relief against the order of Himachal Pradesh assembly speaker Kuldeep Pathania. The court also refused to allow them to participate in the state assembly proceedings or exercise their voting right.

A Supreme Court bench led by Justice Sanjiv Khanna, who heard the petition filed by six rebel MLAs, refused to stay the decision of the Speaker Kuldeep Singh Pathania announced on February 29.

The court, however, has issued notice to the office of HP Assembly speaker and sought its response on the plea in four weeks.

The bench ordered that pending adjudication of their plea, rebels will not have the right to vote or participate in proceedings of the Assembly.

The Election Commission of India (ECI) having already announced bypoll for the assembly seats held by the rebels, the MLAs will have to seek re-election to the House, if they want to return to the assembly as its members.

The elections to six assembly constituencies will be held simultaneously with four Lok Sabha seats in Himachal Pradesh on June 1—the last and seventh phase of the polling for the general elections.

This issue of bypoll also cropped up during the hearing but the Supreme Court did not grant them any relief here also.

"On the question of a by-election on six vacant seats, we will have to examine whether the elections, which have been notified by the ECI are to be stayed during the pendency of plea," the bench said.

The case, as per Supreme Courts, now will be listed on May 6 – just a day before filing of the nominations will start in the state, both for the Lok Sabha and six state assembly constituencies.

The top court gave the rebel MLAs one week time to file their rejoinders.

Pathania had passed his order on a petition filed by state’s minister for Parliamentary affairs Harshvardhan Chauhan seeking their expulsion from the House for violating the party’s whip during passing of the state’s budget, and also cut-motions.

Six MLAs, one of them a former minister, had cross-voted in favour of the BJP candidate for the lone Rajya Sabha seat, the polling for which was held on February 27.

Their action not only benefited the opposition BJP to get Harsh Mahajan, its candidate elected to the Rajya Sabha but also created a political storm for the congress endangering the 15-month old Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu government.

To thwart their bid (fully backed by the BJP ), Sukhu moved quickly to get the six rebels disqualified as members of the House. They lost their right to participate in the House proceedings and also vote.

The six rebels -- Sudhir Sharma, Ravi Thakur, Rajinder Rana, Inder Dutt Lakhanpal, Chetanya Sharma and Devinder Kumar Bhutto -- were disqualified on February 29. None of them have just returned to the state as they were moved out of the state under the CRPF protection on February 28.

Under the guard of two BJP MLAs—Bikram Thakur and Rakesh Jamwal, the rebels were first lodged at Panchkula hotel and thereafter then to Riskhikesh in Uttarakhand.

Thereafter, they were flown to Gurgaon and lodged in a luxury hotel. Their residences are also now guarded by the CRPF jawans for security of the families.

In Delhi, they also held a meeting with BJP national president J P Nadda and met other central leaders to chalk-out future strategy.

While they were hoping to stay and get the right to participate in the state assembly proceedings, the ECI announced a bypoll to their constituencies –a bigger political blow to their plans to over-turn Sukhu government.

Following their disqualification, the effective strength of the House has gone down to 62 from 68. The number of Congress MLAs in the assembly has also shrunk to 34 from 40 when the government was formed under Chief Minister Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu on December 13, 2022.

The BJP maintains that the Chief Minister has lost majority in the state assembly and his government could collapse any moment from now.

"Chief Minister should resign on moral grounds," demands former Chief Minister Jairam Thakur, who is also leader of opposition.

Sukhu asserts that the BJP bid to topple a duly elected Congress government-- the only one in the north, has failed. "The rebels have betrayed the people and now they will find it difficult to face the voters who had elected them to serve for five years as Congress MLAs. They have fallen in the BJP trap which failed to get power through votes in 2022 ,now buying power through notes (cash). The congress will win all six seats in the bypoll to to give stability to the Congress."