The Legality and the legitimacy of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha special session.
by The Canadian Parvasi
‘The unique motion would have been the first of its kind, as the Sabha offers no such provision for a confidence motion in favour of the state government.’
The ruling AAP government has relentlessly tried to parade the fact that BJP has been making efforts to ‘buy out’ their party members in an ordeal they termed ‘Operation Lotus’. Following a similar motion being raised in the Delhi Vidhan Sabha by CM Arvind Kejriwal, the Bhagwant Mann led-government asked for the assembly to move to a confidence motion.
But the question arises if the special session, which has now been cancelled, was well within the bounds of the government provisions and even more so if it was needed in the first place. The unique motion would have been the first of its kind, as the assembly offers no such provision for a confidence motion in favour of the state government.
Hemant Kumar, an Advocate at Punjab and Haryana High Court, said on the matter, “it is a well-established convention that the President and the Governor has to act on the aid and advice of the respective Union/State Council of Ministers save in exceptional circumstances which only include when the duly elected Government in power no more commands a majority in the House which however is not the case in Punjab where Bhagwant Mann led AAP (Aam Aadmi Party) has 92 MLAs in 117 member Punjab Vidhan Sabha and no one has questioned this fact. If the Government of the day desires to reaffirm its majority in the House even suo-motu (on its own), there is no legal impediment in the same.”
There is no provision for such a motion, simply because there hasn’t been a need for one. So much of the MLAs’ time, Taxpayers’ money, as well as other resources, would have been exhausted in an effort to reiterate the loyalty of AAP members to the party in an effort that can only be defined as pompous. Not only is it unconventional as far as the assembly provisions go, but it is also absurd for the government to want its members to ‘prove’ their loyalty in the procession, being present in front of the opposition, media, and the general public.
‘A 2018 report shows that as much as 70 lacs were spent on a Punjab Vidhan Sabha gathering in the first 11 minutes’
The futility of the motion raises even more questions since it would be carried out at the taxpayers’ expense. A 2018 report shows that as much as 70 lacs were spent on a Punjab Vidhan Sabha gathering in the first 11 minutes of the congregation comprising 170 MLAs.
‘Not only is it unconventional as far as the assembly provisions go, but it is also absurd for the government to want its members to ‘prove’ their loyalty in the procession, being present in front of the opposition, media, and the general public.’
First of those to raise an issue about the very legitimacy of the motion was Former Deputy Speaker Bir Devinder Singh. Outright calling the motion illegal, he stated, “Section 58 (1) defines only the no-confidence motion. There is no rule which entails the confidence motion. Therefore the session is unconstitutional. Only a no-confidence motion can be tabled. The House cannot be summoned to pass the confidence motion. The special session can only be called if adequate number of members give the notice for no-confidence motion. Otherwise, it is a waste of expenditure and time. The Governor should send for the rules and business of the house before summoning it.”
Following the statement, he reportedly had a telephonic conversation with the Governor’s office on Wednesday where he was asked to detail the rules of the Vidhan Sabha.
Following the criticism from the opposition and experts alike, Punjab Governor Banwarilal Purohit called off the special session on Wednesday, just a day before the session was scheduled to happen, citing the absence of rules for summoning such a provision as the reason for the same. Predictably, this was met with quite some resistance from the member of the Aam Aadmi Party.
AAP MP Raghav Chadha took to Twitter to say, “It was unheard of in Parliamentary history so far, that members of the opposition instead of the elected government have demanded that a house of the legislature should NOT be summoned. Please note in the letter that both BJP & Congress MLAs are in cahoots in this venture.”
AAP CM also expressed his dismay with the matter tweeting in Punjabi, “The governor not allowing the assembly to run raises big questions on the country’s democracy. Bhim Rao Ji’s Constitution on one side and Operation Lotus on the other… People are watching.”
In retaliation, SAD President Sukhbir Singh Badal stated that if AAP wished to report bribery charges, they should have approached the CBI or a High Court probe calling the entire ordeal a ‘meaningless AAP PR exercise’ that would cost crores of rupees of public exchequer.
BJP Leader and ex-Delhi MLA Manjinder Singh Sirsa tweeted slyly, “Blinded by the failed Delhi model @BhagwantMann must have forgotten that Vidhan Sabha is governed by rulebook not by stand-up comedy or dramatics.”
Members of the AAP also took to the streets on Thursday marching from the Vidhan Sabha to the Raj Bhawan in a peaceful march protesting Governor Banwarilal Purohit’s decision to call off the session.
AAP, however, does not intend to back down in its pursuit to raise a special motion with cabinet minister Kuldip Singh Dhaliwal stating that the party now intends to move to a confidence motion on the 27th.