Supreme Court admits Congress plea against Goa Minister
In a blow to the Manohar Parrikar-led BJP government in Goa, the Supreme Court on Friday admitted a Congress party appeal to disqualify the State’s Health Minister Vishwajit Pratapsingh Rane for playing “fraud on the Constitution.”Mr. Rane had quit the Congress and joined the BJP last year.A three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra issued notice to the State of Goa, Election Commission of India, Goa State Election Commission, Speaker of the Goa State Legislative Assembly, former pro-tem Speaker Sidharth Sripad Kuncalienker and Mr. Rane, among other BJP leaders in the State.The Congress said Mr. Rane defied a party whip to vote against the Parrikar government during the Floor Test conducted in the Goa Assembly on March 16, 2017 on the orders of the Supreme Court. The special leave petition said though Mr. Rane signed the whip at 11 a.m., he abstained from voting and instead walked out of the Assembly. He returned later in the afternoon and tendered his resignation, which was accepted without question by the pro-tem Speaker Mr. Kuncalienker.A few days later, Mr. Rane joined the BJP and was made the Health Minister. He contested a by-election in Goa and won, thus continuing to be a Member of the Legislative Assembly.The Congress, represented by senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi and advocates Sangramsingh Bhonsle and Samridhi Jain, argued that both the pro-tem Speaker and Mr. Rane “played mischief” and reduced the anti-defection law to a “paper tiger.” Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi for Mr. Rane countered that an absentee legislator leaving the Assembly without voting cannot derail a floor test and invite the anti-defection law.Chief Justice Misra observed that the question of law whether “a Speaker ought to have accepted the resignation of a member who had invited disqualification by an act of defiance without conducting inquiry” should be examined in detail.