New Delhi: The Supreme Court Tuesday said the Manipur Governor cannot ”sit over” the opinion given by the Election Commission (EC) regarding the disqualification of 12 BJP MLAs in the ”office of profit” issue.
A three-judge bench headed by Justice L Nageswara Rao made the observation after it was apprised that the Governor is yet to take a decision on the EC’s opinion furnished on January 13, 2021.
”Reference has been passed by the Election Commission. Why can’t the Governor pass an order? The government should ask the Governor. Something must be done. The Election Commission had submitted its opinion in the matter in January. The Governor cannot sit over the decision,” said the bench, also comprising Justices B R Gavai and B V Nagarathna.
The top court was hearing a plea filed by Karong MLA D D Thaisii and others seeking disqualification of 12 MLAs on the ground that they were holding the posts of Parliamentary Secretaries, which amounted to ”offices of profit”.
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At the outset, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Thaisii, contended that the Governor cannot keep the decision pending and he was entitled to know the view.
Sibal submitted that the term of the Assembly was expiring within a month and if something is not done the issue would become infructuous.
”We must know what the Constitutional authorities are doing in the country. The Governor is not discharging his constitutional obligation. They will delay and one month will pass. We’re entitled to know what the opinion is,” Sibal said.
The counsel representing the state government sought adjournment saying that the Solicitor General of India was arguing before another bench.
The matter was then posted for hearing on November 11.
The 12 BJP MLAs from Manipur are reportedly facing disqualification in a 2018 ”office-of-profit” case for holding the position of parliamentary secretaries.
The MLAs were found not to be in violation by the EC as they had held the posts of parliamentary secretaries in the state under an exemption granted by two laws, the reports said.
The laws were later struck down by the high court.
After the court declared the laws void, the Manipur Congress had approached Governor Najma Heptulla, seeking disqualification of the 12 BJP MLAs on account of holding the posts of parliamentary secretaries.
The governor had sought the EC’s views on the matter in October last year.
According to the report, in a letter to Heptulla in January, the EC opined that since the two laws were in force at the time the lawmakers held the posts of parliamentary secretaries, they could not be disqualified for holding an office of profit retrospectively.