The Supreme Court postpones hearing on Disqualification case of 12 BJP MLAs on account of holding ‘Office of profit’ for one week; EC's opinion on the case reportedly apprised to Governor's Secretary on January 14, 2021
In today's hearing, respondents stated that the Election Commission of India, ECI has already given its opinion on the Disqualification Case to Manipur Governor's Secretary on January 14 this year. However, the petitioner's counsel claimed that the Governor has still not decided and that there is no point in going back to the Governor to decide if they have not decided in six months. According to the petitioner, the Election Commission has a constitutional duty to give it's opinion to the Governor of Manipur and failure to discharge the constitutional duty by a constitutional authority cannot be sustained. The Court ordered to set a deadline for the Governor's Secretary to inform the Governor about the EC's opinion.
It maybe mentioned that the Government of Manipur had enacted the Manipur Parliamentary Secretary (Appointment, Salary and Allowances and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2012, enabling the Chief Minister to appoint Members of Manipur Legislative Assembly as Parliamentary Secretary with the status and rank of a Minister of a State. In 2017, the Supreme Court ruled that the scheme of Article 194 does not expressly authorize the State legislature to create an office such as that of the Parliamentary Secretary. Subsequently, Manipur Government passed the Manipur Parliamentary Secretary (Appointment, Salary And Allowances and Miscellaneous Provisions) Repealing Act, 2018. 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 ceased to exist after the Manipur High Court pronounced them invalid and unconstitutional in a judgment on September 17, 2020.
After the High Court declared these Acts void ab initio, Congress MLAs of Manipur had approached Governor Dr Najma Heptulla seeking disqualification of the 12 BJP MLAs on account of holding the position of parliamentary secretaries, which qualified as 'office of profit'. The Governor then forwarded necessary documents and sought the EC's opinion on the matter in October last year. After much waiting, Congress MLA DD Thaisii had filed a writ petition to the Supreme court seeking the EC's opinion on the case.