Petitions on disqualification of HJC legislators dismissed

Haryana Assembly Speaker Kuldeep Sharma dismissed petitions before him seeking the disqualification of five HJC legislators who had defected to Cong in 2009.

Chandigarh: Under directions from the Supreme Court to decide the matter, Haryana Assembly speaker Kuldeep Sharma Sunday dismissed all 14 petitions before him seeking the disqualification of five Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) legislators who had defected to the Congress party in November 2009.

Dismissing the petitions, the speaker upheld the merger of the HJC legislators with the Congress.

The move by these legislators, who had been elected October 2009 on the HJC ticket in the Haryana assembly election, was challenged by HJC president Kuldeep Bishnoi and 13 other legislators, including opposition Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) leader Abhey Singh Chautala, under the Anti-Defection Act.

All the petitions were clubbed together by the Speaker.

The speaker, who announced the 29-page judgment to the media here Sunday at the assembly complex, said he has accepted the merger of the HJC group with the Congress under provisions of the 10th Schedule of the constitution, which allows such a merger, provided it is supported by two-thirds of the party`s legislators.

The HJC had won six seats in the assembly election. Barring its president Bishnoi, all the other legislators had defected to the Congress, saying that they had "merged" their group with the Congress.

The five HJC legislators are Sat Pal Sangwan, Zile Ram Sharma, Dharam Singh, Vinod Bhayana and Rao Narender Singh.

Two of the defector legislators, Sat Pal Sangwan and Rao Narender Singh, are cabinet ministers in the Congress-led Bhupinder Singh Hooda government, holding important portfolios like health and revenue, respectively.

Two other HJC defectors who joined the Congress, Vinod Bhayana and Zile Ram Sharma, were accommodated by Hooda as chief parliamentary secretaries (CPS).

The Congress had failed to get a simple majority in the 90-member assembly in the October 2009 election. It won only 40 seats (simple majority was at 46 seats).

It managed to rope in seven Independent legislators to form the government. Later, the HJC legislators also defected to the Congress.

The speaker said the merger of the HJC group with the Congress had been allowed by his predecessor, HS Chatha.

"The merger, which was allowed by my predecessor, was not challenged. The matter before me was that of disqualification," Sharma told media here.

Sharma said he heard the matter after becoming speaker March 2011.

He said he has met the deadline fixed by the Supreme Court of India to decide the case.

"The decision of the merger in question is correct and is a merger of political parties," he added.

Regarding the issue of four HJC legislators joining the Congress first and one legislator doing it later, the speaker said: "Merger is a continuing process."

"The merger is possible only if two-thirds of the legislators of the party support it. In this case, it is as per the norm. The order of the speaker can be challenged only if it is legally incorrect," he pointed out.

Asked to comment about the status of HJC as a political party, he said the original political party has been merged with the Congress and the status of HJC can be clarified by the Election Commission of India.

Sharma said the petitions concerning seven independent legislators was still pending with him.