Cong's rebel MLAs, BJP, 'impeach' Arunachal Assembly Speaker

Cong's rebel MLAs, BJP, 'impeach' Arunachal Assembly Speaker
The Arunachal Pradesh Assembly today passed a resolution to 'impeach' Speaker Nabam Rebia by a voice vote and signatured consent of 33 members, including 20 rebel Congress MLAs, 11 of BJP and two independents, in a vote boycotted by the supporters of Chief Minister Nabam Tuki.

27 members of the House, including the Chief Minister, his ministerial colleagues and 16 Congress MLAs abstained from the proceedings chaired by Deputy Speaker T Norbu Thongdok, held at the makeshift venue of a community hall after the district administration 'sealed' the Assembly Secretariat Complex apprehending law and order problem.

Amid high drama, 34 MLAs seeking removal of the Speaker, including his deputy Thongdok, met at the community hall for the session.

Thongdok called out the name of Rebia to enable him offer a clarification, if any, on the impeachment notice but the Speaker was not present.

The resolution was then put to vote and was supported by 20 dissident Congress MLAs, barring the Deputy Speaker who did not vote, 11 of BJP and two independents. All 33 of them also put their signature of consent on the resolution, which was then declared passed.

Arunachal Pradesh has a 60-member Assembly.
Tension prevailed around the Assembly complex which was sealed by the district administration.

Police lobbed four tear gas shells to disperse supporters of the rival Congress factions, who laid a virtual siege to the House. Stones were hurled by the two sides which damaged a vehicle.

11 BJP MLAs and two independents had served the notice for impeachment motion against the Speaker on November 19 to the Assembly secretary.

Speaker Nabam Rebia, however, termed the move as "illegal and unconstitutional".
Questioning the legality of participation of 14 rebel Congress MLAs, who were yesterday disqualified by him, including Deputy Speaker Thongdok, in the exercise, Rebia said it was a "mockery of democracy".

"It is a mockery of democracy... When I have made the summons and declared the notice issued by Governor J P Rajkhowa as null and void which was unconstitutional and illegal, how can a session be convened in a different venue?" he wondered at a press conference.

"Even if an impeachment motion notice is served against me, I have the power to act as the Speaker till the motion is moved in the Assembly. I disqualified 14 MLAs after proper scrutiny of the notice served by CLP leader Nabam Tuki on December 7 last," he said.

Rebia said the Assembly could be shifted temporarily to another venue only in "particular cases" like when an important government bill is pending which needs to be passed immediately.

He said the CLP leader had served the notice following a recommendation from the party high command for their expulsion.

The Speaker said state's Parliamentary Affairs Minister, who is also the chief whip, had also recommended their removal.

"All the grounds for their removal had been cleared before issuance of the disqualification notice and there is no other option left for them except taking legal help. As of now, they are no more members of the Assembly," he said.

He said the development, unprecedented in the state, occurred due to "unconstitutional and illegal" move of Governor J P Rajkhowa.

"As per the established rules under the rules of procedure of the state Legislative Assembly, the Governor can summon a session after consultation with the council of ministers headed by the Chief Minister and with the Speaker. The Parliamentary Affairs department will later issue notice for commencement of the session," he pointed out.

Rajkhowa had a few days ago issued orders for convening the three-day Winter Session from December 16 to 18, modifying the earlier order of summoning the House from January 14 to 18 and made consideration of the impeachment notice the first agenda.

Responding to media queries, Rebia said that the Assembly secretariat had received two impeachment motion notices against him and the Deputy Speaker which were under scrutiny.

It is the Business Advisory Committee (BAC) of the Assembly which can decide what to be admitted and what not in the session, but anyway the Governor's secretariat had no say on it.

"The BAC will decide the merits and demerits of such impeachment notices and will admit in the session accordingly on grounds if the Speaker and his deputy are incapable to run business in the House or have indulged in misappropriation of government funds," he said, adding such notices should be served 14 days before commencement of the Assembly session.

Earlier, moving the impeachment motion, Leader of the Opposition Tamiyo Taga of BJP said, "The Speaker has failed to perform his duty as a neutral person and allowed business of the house as per his whims. He always shows bias against the opposition members."

He said Speaker Rebia accepted the resignation of two Congress members – Gabriel D Wangsu and Wanglam Sawin - without verifying the fact as they were "forced to sign" their resignation letters by Chief Minister Nabam Tuki.

Taga also alleged there were cases pending against the Speaker.
"The Speaker has appointed a large number of staff in the Assembly without following the established rules. We are demanding an impartial enquiry against him which is possible only if he is removed from the chair," the opposition leader added.

Talking to reporters, Thongdok later claimed the disqualification of 14 Congress MLAs, including him, by the Speaker yesterday was "illegal" and amounted to "murder of democracy".

He said democratic practices cannot be altered by a magistrate, who issued the 'seal' order at the behest of the state government.

Dissident leader Kalikho Pul questioned the ground on which the rebel MLAs were disqualified, saying they had never defected to other parties.

Chief Minister Nabam Tuki had yesterday described the advancement of the session as "illegal" and decided to boycott the session along with his council of ministers and MLAs supporting him.

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