(Eds: Adds details) Ranchi, Jan 24 (PTI) The High Court of Jharkhand on Tuesday dismissed a petition filed by BJP leader and former chief minister Babulal Marandi challenging the anti-defection proceedings against him by Speaker Rabindra Nath Mahto.
Marandi, in his petition, has alleged partiality by the Speaker and that Mahto, along with Congress MLA Deepika Pandey Singh, connived to start the proceedings against him.
Justice Rajesh Shankar dismissed the petition observing that the office of the Speaker is an independent authority and beyond the scope of judicial pronouncements at this stage.
The high court refused to intervene and interfere with the proceedings and dismissed the petition.
Marandi has mentioned in his petition that he has not been given a fair chance to defend his case.
Marandi has stated that this is not a case of defection in the assembly as the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (JVM) has merged with the BJP and therefore it cannot be called defection.
The high court, after hearing the matter at length, had reserved the order on January 5 which was pronounced in court during the day.
Marandi had challenged the issuance of a notice on him on November 2, 2020 by the Speaker informing him of the initiation of proceedings for defection.
The Speaker had taken suo motu cognizance of Marandi joining the BJP and issued a notice for defection.
Arguing on behalf of the Speaker, senior Supreme Court advocate Sanjay Hegde said the discretion to decide defection and merger or defragmentation of a political party is with the Speaker.
Only the Speaker can decide the fate of a merger of a political party as per the 10th Schedule of the Constitution of India, the advocate said.
Commenting on various judgements of the Supreme Court and other high courts, Hegde said the high court does not have the power to interfere with the proceedings of the Speaker’s tribunal deciding any matter.
The role of the high court can only come into action after the decision has been made by the office of the Speaker, Hegde had argued.
Marandi’s counsel Vinod Kumar Sahu said the decision of the high court has been pronounced and is not available for further deliberation and discussion.
The defection charges had been filed against Marandi by MLAs of various parties in December 2020 after he merged his Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) party with the saffron party in February of that year. He was also elected as the BJP legislative party leader.
The Speaker, who had initiated proceedings under the anti-defection law suo motu, completed the hearing in August 2022 and reserved the judgment.
Mahto in May 2020 had rejected Marandi's plea to dismiss defection charges against him and cancel proceedings under the anti-defection law on the ground that they were filed late.
The tribunal headed by the Speaker had turned down the plea of Marandi's counsel to examine witnesses to prove that JVM(P) was lawfully merged with the BJP.
Marandi's counsel R N Sahay had said that the petitions against his client were not maintainable as they were filed 10 months after the merger of the JVM(P) with the saffron party.
In the Representation of People's Act, there is a limitation of 45 days, he had said. PTI COR NAM ACD ACD