Goa Speaker hears petition to disqualify 12 ruling MLAs

Goa Speaker hears petition to disqualify 12 ruling MLAs, order reserved 

Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant. Credit: PTI File Photo

In a development that could have a bearing on the fate of the Dr. Pramod Sawant-led coalition government, Goa Speaker Rajesh Patnekar on Friday has reserved his order on two separate petitions filed by leaders of the Congress and Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), seeking disqualification of 12 ruling legislators.

Ten Congress party MLAs, led by then Leader of Opposition Chandrakant Kavlekar had quit the party and joined the BJP in July 2019, while two MGP MLAs had quit the regional outfit to join the ruling BJP in March the same year.

Emerging from the state assembly complex where the two hearings were being conducted by the Speaker, state Congress president Girish Chodankar said that the Speaker should dispose the petitions as soon as possible, in view of the Supreme Court's directive earlier this month.

"Getting the order, in our favour or not, does not matter. Disposal of the petition before the Speaker was very important for us. Speaker has heard us and our opponents, we will hope to have an order very soon," the state Congress president told reporters outside the assembly complex.

"Today, the hearing has been completed and the matter has been posted for final order. If the SC had not intervened, this hearing would not have happened today and (hearings) would have continued till elections are declared," Chodankar also said.

Earlier this month, the apex court, which was hearing a petition filed by Chodankar, seeking timely disposal of the matter, had directed the Speaker to issue his order on the petition on February 26.

Chodankar in his petition has argued that the split in the party caused by the 10 MLAs and their subsequent claim to have merged the Congress party in Goa into the BJP, was illegal and violative of the provisions of Schedule 10 of the Indian Constitution.

Speaker Rajesh Patnekar on Friday also heard another petition filed by MGP MLA and former Deputy Chief Minister Sudin Dhavalikar, seeking disqualification of two former MGP MLAs Manohar Ajgaonkar and Deepak Prabhu Pauskar, who also split the party and merged it with the BJP in March 2019.

"The Speaker has been kind enough to hear us on the merits of the matter. Now it is reserved for orders," Dhavalikar's counsel Dhaval Zaveri, told reporters.

Currently, The ruling government in Goa has the support of 27 BJP MLAs and one independent MLA. Theoretically, the legislative support to the BJP-led coalition government would shrink considerably in the 40-member state assembly, if the 12 ruling MLAs stand to be disqualified. 

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