New Delhi: The Supreme Court said on Tuesday “to what extent our morality has gone down now!” while directing the listing of a plea next year by Goa Congress leader Girish Chodankar challenging the Bombay High Court order, which junked a plea seeking disqualification of 12 members of the Goa Legislative Assembly for defecting from Congress and Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) to the BJP in 2019.
A counsel, representing the petitioner, urged a bench comprising justices M.R. Shah and Hima Kohli to adjourn the matter, as his senior was in another court.
The bench queried, “since the next election has already taken place, has this not become infructuous?”
The counsel argued that this has a bigger question of law involved especially against the backdrop of the situation in Maharashtra.
The respondents’ counsel submitted that this has become a purely an academic exercise. The bench asked the petitioner’s counsel to ask his senior to be present in the court at 3.30 p.m.
When the matter was called for hearing after 3.30 p.m., the petitioner’s counsel requested the court to schedule the matter for hearing on Wednesday, adding that this is an important matter.
The counsel added that even recently, nine Congress MLAs had defected to the BJP, and pressed for the court to consider the larger legal question involved in the matter.
Justice Shah said: “To what extent our morality has gone down now!”
The bench scheduled the matter for hearing next year, so that it can consider the legal questions.
Respondents MLAs were represented by senior advocate Darius Khambatta along with advocate Abhikalp Pratap Singh, and the Speaker was represented by Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj ASG along with advocate Abhay Anil Anturkar.
The plea contended that the Speaker allowed protection to the Congress defectors, by invoking protection guaranteed to a legislature party member when the original political party of a member merges with another party.
The plea sought the apex court’s intervention, claiming the high court order could lead to political chaos and also pointed out that the Speaker held that the “deemed merger” of Congress with the BJP had taken place.
The plea said that this deemed merger was in teeth of the decisions passed by the same high court.
It further argued the order would further promote evils of defections, which would be at loggerheads with the very object sought to be achieved through Tenth Schedule (anti defection law) of the Constitution.
On February 24, this year, the Bombay High Court at Goa dismissed the disqualification pleas and upheld the decision of the Goa speaker.
The petitioner claimed that the high court gave an erroneous interpretation on the premise that MLAs constituted two-third of their party and merged with another party, which ensured protection under para 4 of the Tenth Schedule.
In 2017 Goa polls, the Congress emerged as the single largest party by winning 17 seats. However, the BJP forged an alliance to form the government. Later, a number of Congress MLAs quit the party, which reduced its strength in the House.