Dissent not Stifled by Suspension of BJP MLAs from Assembly, Delhi HC told

The Delhi High Court was assured by the Assembly authorities on Friday that an indefinite suspension of seven BJP MLAs for interrupting Lieutenant Governor V K Saxena’s address at the start of the budget session was not an attempt to stifle dissent in the House and the privileges committee’s proceedings against them would be concluded without any delay.

Senior advocate Sudhir Nandrajog, appearing for the Delhi Assembly, asserted before Justice Subramonium Prasad that suspension is a “self-discipline” mechanism in the face of a “series of misdemeanours” by opposition legislators.

The court was hearing petitions filed by the seven Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLAs — Mohan Singh Bisht, Ajay Mahawar, O P Sharma, Abhay Verma, Anil Bajpai, Jitender Mahajan and Vijender Gupta — challenging their suspension from the Assembly till the conclusion of the proceedings before the privileges committee.

Opposing the petitions, Nandrajog contended that the House holds a discretion in matters of maintaining its dignity and when the petitioners wrote a letter to the LG tendering their apology, they could have written a similar letter to the House as well for causing disruptions.

The judge told the counsel for the petitioners to consider sorting out the issue by addressing a letter showing their “utmost respect” to the House.

During the hearing, Nandrajog asserted that the suspended MLAs had violated the code of conduct and there is no question of the action being political in view of the “kind of majority” that the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) enjoys in the House.

“The leader of opposition was equally guilty. The leader of opposition, who enjoys special privileges, has been left. Dissent is not stifled in the factual aspects of this case,” he said.

“We did not move ahead yesterday (with the privileges committee’s proceedings)…. Things are lingering because of the pendency of these (court) proceedings. We will not delay the proceedings in any manner. There is no intention to delay. We need not politically delay,” the senior lawyer added.

Nandrajog also said the “final decision” in the matter is yet to be taken by the authorities and there is, thus, no denial of opportunity of hearing to the MLAs.

The hearing on the petitions will continue on Monday.

At the last hearing, the court had asked the privileges committee of the Assembly to hold off its proceedings against the suspended MLAs in view of the pendency of the matter before it.

The MLAs have contended that their suspension till the conclusion of the proceedings before the privileges committee is in violation of the applicable rules.

The BJP lawmakers interrupted Saxena multiple times during his address on February 15 as he highlighted the achievements of the AAP regime.

AAP MLA Dilip Pandey had subsequently moved a resolution in the House for their suspension. The resolution was accepted by Speaker Ram Niwas Goel, who also referred the issue to the privileges committee. Seven BJP lawmakers, barring Leader of Opposition Ramvir Singh Bidhuri, were barred from attending the proceedings.

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The session has been extended till the first week of March due to a delay in budget finalisation.

The petitions by the MLAs said their suspension violates Article 19(1)(a) (right to freedom of speech and expression) of the Constitution and the rights and privileges of legislators as well as the principle of “proportionality” and “rationality”.

“The order of the Hon’ble speaker of the Legislative Assembly of NCT of Delhi is unconstitutional, unjust, unfair and, in any event, selective and grossly disproportionate. It violates the fundamental and constitutional rights of the petitioners,” the petition filed through advocate Satya Ranjan Swain on behalf of Mahawar, Gupta and Bajpai said.

The plea highlighted that the budget is the last full budget before the 2025 Assembly polls and therefore, the presence of the opposition members is of utmost importance.

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