Expelled BJD Rajya Sabha member Pyarimohan Mohapatra on Wednesday got a shot in the arm following a Supreme Court order that can qualify him to function as an independent member in the upper house. Supreme Court sought response from the BJD supremo and Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik on expelled Rajya Sabha member Pyari Mohan Mahapatraâ€™s petition complaining that no formal suspension order had been served on him rendering him ineligible to either form his own political party or participate in the parliamentary debates, including the recent FDI vote.
The party president had announced his suspension on June 1 and got his expulsion decided at a meeting of the executive committee on 16th November. Naveen, however, did not intimate the decision to the Rajya Sabha, thereby letting Pyarimohan continue as a party MP in the Parliament records, but practically making him non-operational as a legislator. Pyari waited for some time and decided to approach the Supreme Court after Mangala Kisan, the BJD leader in the Rajya Sabha, recently served a party whip on all the members except him to participate in and vote during the FDI debate.
A bench of Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and Justices S.S. Nijjar and J. Chelameshwar issued the notice after Mahapatraâ€™s counsel Suresh Chandra Tripathi, mentioned the matter before it pleading that the matter be heard by a constitution bench to deal with the issue of fundamental difference on the status of a member who is disqualified under the anti-defection laws and one who is expelled from a party.
Besides Naveen, the apex court also sought response from the parliamentary affairs secretary and the secretary general of the Rajya Sabha on the petition.
Pyari apprehended that without seeking judicial relief, he might eventually fall into Naveen’s trap and lose his Rajya Sabha membership on the ground of defying party whip. A three-judge Supreme Court bench, while admitting Pyari’s petition, referred it to a larger bench and ordered that the previous decision by the same court in G Viswanathan case would not be applicable to him. In the G Viswanathan case, a SC bench had said that an expelled member could be deemed a member of the party on whose ticket he or she was elected.
During the FDI debate in Rajya Sabha on December 6 and 7, Mahapatra said that he was not issued with the whip that was given to others belonging to the BJD.
â€œThis had landed the petitioner in a piquant situation and as a result, the petitioner was deprived of participating in Rajya Sabha debate and consequently the voting that ensured.
â€œA valuable right to participate in the debate in voicing his concerns in general and exposing the double standard of BJD on the issue of FDI multi-brand retail in particular was thus snatched away,â€ the petition said.
The Supreme Court interim order apparently came as a shocker for the BJD leadership, but most party leaders were at a loss to explain why Pyari’s expulsion was not communicated to the Rajya Sabha. “We have discarded Pyarimohan Mohapatra from our party. He should resign on his own. We wonder why he is talking of fighting for our party workers and cleansing the party anymore,” remarked Pravat Tripathy, BJD government chief whip and party’s election returning officer.
The MP said that even though he was expelled 20 days ago from the party, he had not received the suspension order so far and as a result he was officially treated as Rajya Sabha member.
â€œAs a result, Rajya Sabha treats petitioner as a member belonging to the BJD. Though expelled by the virtue of undemocratic conduct, the petitioner is made subject to the whip of the party and failure to adhere to such a whip would entail consequence of incurring disqualification under Clause 2 (1)(b) of the Tenth Schedule,â€ he said.