Jharkhand: Political uncertainty anywhere is undesirable, say former CECs

Former CECs have suggested that Jharkhand’s governor Ramesh Bais should have acted with urgency after EC submitted their opinion to him five days ago on pleas for CM Hemant's disqualification as MLA

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Former Election Commissioners have suggested that Jharkhand’s governor Ramesh Bais should have acted with urgency after Election Commission submitted their opinion to him five days ago on pleas for chief minister Hemant Soren’s disqualification as MLA, reported 'The Telegraph'.

Jharkhand governor is yet to reveal the Election Commission’s opinion. It is important to note here that Governor Bais has been associated with the BJP and was a minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government.

Former chief election commissioners (CECs) said that although there was no time limit on how long a governor can take to act on the EC’s opinion on disqualification pleas, he or she is expected to be reasonable and is constitutionally bound to follow the poll panel’s opinion.

According to the report in Telegraph, Former CEC S Y Quraishi said, “The petition to the governor to disqualify an MLA is a public petition, and not the private property of the governor. Hence, the governor has to make public whatever action he takes regarding this. Political uncertainty anywhere is undesirable.”

The election commission on August 26 sent governor Bais its opinion on whether Soren has violated Section 9A of The Representation of the People Act, 1951. The section says: “A person shall be disqualified if, and for so long as, there subsists a contract entered into by him in the course of his trade or business with the appropriate Government for the supply of goods to, or for the execution of any works undertaken by, that Government.”

However, Soren’s defence was that the Supreme Court had exempted mining leases in several judgments, and in any case he had surrendered the lease to quarry stones.

Former CEC OP Rawat told Telegraph, “The EC has no role (to play after giving its opinion to the governor).

On being asked whether reforms were required in law to prevent the trend of MLAs being sequestered in resorts to insulate them from poaching attempts, Rawat said: “The government will not fall if the chief minister is disqualified."

Existing laws allow a person to be a minister for six months without being a member of the legislature, during which time the person is expected to get elected.

“Also, he (Soren) has surrendered the mining lease for which disqualification was sought. So there is no bar on him to continue as chief minister even if he is disqualified as an MLA.”

As per article Article 192 (2) of the Constitution: “Before giving any decision on any such question (of the disqualification of MLAs), the Governor shall obtain the opinion of the Election Commission and shall act according to such opinion.”

“Whatever the opinion of the EC — to disqualify or not to disqualify — the governor has to issue a speaking order which is the opinion of the EC attested by him. Article 192 does not impose a deadline on the governor but it is upon his conscience to only take a reasonable amount of time to act according to the EC’s opinion. Reasonable time cannot be defined legally as it is a matter of justice,” 'The Telegraph' quoted another former CEC on condition of anonymity.

“The EC functions as a quasi-judicial body in this regard, and since its reference is from the governor it can only communicate its opinion to the governor and no one else. The governor informs the EC of whatever action he takes. For years on end, Speakers often sit on petitions to disqualify MLAs for defecting even after directions from courts, because reasonable time is not defined in law.”

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