Patna: In a jolt to the JD(U), the Patna High Court today set aside Bihar Assembly Speaker's November one, 2014 order terminating membership of four rebel MLAs under the anti-defection law after the ruling party had sought action against them over alleged cross-voting in the Rajya Sabha by-poll.
The MLAs are Gyanendra Singh Gyanu (Barh), Neeraj Kumar Bablu (Chhatapur), Rahul Sharma (Ghoshi) and Ravindra Rai (Mahua). Speaker Uday Narayan Chaudhary had disqualified them on the grounds of anti-party activity and "voluntary surrender of membership".
"Defection and dissent were not synonyms," Justice J P Sharan said setting aside Chaudhary's order.
The JD(U) has decided to file an appeal in the Patna High Court against the order.
"We welcome the decision of the HC, but feel the points raised by us have not been heard properly, so we will file an appeal for hearing in a double bench of the Patna High Court,"
Parliamentary Affairs minister Shrawan Kumar, who is also JD(U) chief whip and complainant from the ruling party against the four rebels, told PTI.
Former Chief Minister Nitish Kumar refused to comment on the judgement when asked by reporters, beyond saying that "I am hearing this from you fellows."
Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi welcomed it.
"We welcome the decision of the Patna High Court on four rebel JD(U) MLAs," Manjhi told reporters emerging from a function organised by the Ambedkar foundation.
In the 57-page verdict, the HC made a difference between 'defection' and 'dissent' and said activities of the four petitioners did not amount to voluntary surrender of membership.
Pointing out that the four petitioners had not put up any candidate against JD(U) National President Sharad Yadav during the Rajya Sabha by-election and had voted in his favour,
Justice Sharan said, "Isolated act of dissent to such independence and nothing further to add on cannot amount to voluntary surrender of membership."
Senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi said, "It's a shocker for Nitish Kumar who through Speaker tried to keep his party's minority government running."
He told PTI, "If the four rebels, who have already been expelled by JD(U), want to join BJP we will welcome them."