Manipur Governor notifies ECI; 12 MLAs are not holding office of profit

Imphal 8 Dec, 2021: In a major development, Governor La Ganesan has on Wednesday dismissed the petition of Congress MLA DD Thaisi seeking for disqualification of 12 MLAs on the grounds of holding Parliamentary Secretary posts amounting to ‘offices of profit’, declaring that the MLAs have not incurred disqualification on the ground of office of profit under the provision of Article 19 (1) of the Indian Constitution.

The Governor pronounced the judgment in exercise of the power conferred upon the Governor under Article 192 (1) of Constitution of India, read with the opinion dated January 13, 2021 of the Election Commission of India in Reference Case No. 8(G) of 2020.

Congress MLA D. D. Thaisii filed a complaint/application on October 21, 2020 under Article 192 of the Indian Constitution before the Governor, wherein he sought for disqualification of the 12 MLAs for holding the post of Parliamentary Secretaries as the said post incurs office of profit.

The 12 MLAs that DD Thaisi sought for disqualification are Leishanthem Susindro Meitei of Khurai AC, Nahakpam Indrajit of Kshetrigao AC, Lourenbam Rameshwor Meitei of Keirao AC, Thokchom Satyabrata Singh of Yaiskul AC, Heikham Dingo Singh of Sekmai AC, Dr. Sapam Ranjan of Konthoujam AC, Soibam Subhaschandra Singh of Naoriya Pakhanglakpa AC, Kongkham Robindro Singh of Mayang Imphal AC, Leishiyo of Phungyar AC, Kashim Vashum of Chingai AC, Awangbow Newmai of Tamei AC and Ashab Uddin of Jiribam AC.

Having felt satisfied that the only Constitutional provisions applicable for deciding the question of disqualification on the ground of office of profit are Article 191(1)(a) and Article 192 of the Indian Constitution, the Governor also perused the detailed objection affidavit on November 30, 2021 filed by the respondents/MLAs, thereby referring to the Constitutional provisions and also the various settled law of the Supreme Court.

The decision of the Governor said, “It is the law of the land as declared by the Supreme Court under Article 141 of the Indian Constitution that the Legislature of a State has Constitutional power to exempt any office for being office of profit under Article 191(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution. Manipur Legislative Assembly in exercise of its power conferred under Article 191 (1) (a) duly enacted Manipur Legislature (Removal of Disqualifications) Act, 1972 as published in Manipur Gazette vide Gazette Notification No. 166(A) on February 9, 1973, And, the said Act of 1972 along with the Manipur Legislature (Removal of Disqualifications) Amendment Act, 1975 (Manipur Act 1 of 1975), thereby exempting the office of Speaker of Manipur Legislative Assembly from being office of profit; have already been upheld by 3 Judges Bench of the Supreme Court in the case of Nongthombam Ibomcha Singh (Supra) reported in (1976) 4 SCC 291”.

Albeit the law relevant to the office of profit bars MPs and MLAs from holding a position under the government, the 12 MLAs held positions of Parliamentary Secretaries under an exemption granted by two laws – the Manipur Parliamentary Secretary (Appointment, Salary and Allowances and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2012, and the Manipur Parliamentary (Appointment, Salary and Allowances and Miscellaneous Provisions) Repealing Act, 2018 passed in the last decade.

However, the Manipur High Court in a judgment on September 17, 2020 nullified the two acts, following which Congress party knocked the door of the then Governor Dr. Najima Heptulla demanding to disqualify the 12 MLAs who held the post of Parliamentary Secretaries, alleging that the position attracts office of profit. Subsequently, the Governor sought the views of the Election Commission of India with regard to the issue.

The Governor also received the opinion of the Election Commission of India in Reference case No. 8(G) of 2020 dated January 23, 2021, thereby holding that the 12 MLAs have not incurred disqualification under Article 191(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution in view of the law enacted by Legislature namely Manipur Legislature (Removal of Disqualifications) Act, 1972 in exercise of its powers conferred under Article 191(1) of the Indian Constitution, and the same is binding upon the Governor in terms of the aforesaid settled law of the Supreme Court,

On November 9, a bench comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao, BR Gavai and BV Nagarathna of the Supreme Court hearing the writ petition observed that the Governor cannot delay deciding on the opinion given by the Election Commission of India (ECI) on January 13, 2021, regarding the disqualification of 12 BJP MLAs of Manipur Assembly in the “office of profit” issue.

Further, the Governor Dismisses the complaint filed by DD Thaisii on disqualification of MLAs.

Also the Supreme Court soon to hear about the case on Thursday.

More Updates will follow….

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