Apex court denies immediate relief to Amarinder Singh against expulsion

February 23rd, 2009 - 7:48 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 23 (IANS) The Supreme Court Monday refused to grant any immediate legal relief to former Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh seeking restoration of his membership to the state assembly.
A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan refused to grant any immediate legal relief to Singh saying that it would rather have an elaborate hearing of the issue whether a legislator could be expelled from the house for his alleged misdeed during the tenure of his previous house.

“We are not inclined to pass any interim order,” said the bench, which also included Justice R.V. Raveendran, Justice P.K. Sathasivam, Justice J.M. Panchal and Justice R.M. Lodha.

It decided to begin hearing Singh’s lawsuit from April 28. The lawsuit challenges the Punjab assembly speaker’s order last September, expelling the former chief minister from the house.

The Punjab assembly had expelled him after its nine-member special committee found him guilty of causing pecuniary loss to the state exchequer worth millions of rupees by exempting a 32-acre plot of Amritsar Improvement Trust, allocated to a private builder, from tax.

Singh was expelled for the remaining three-and-half years of the term of the state assembly.

After ordering Singh’s expulsion, the special committee had also asked the assembly secretariat to direct the Election Commission of India to declare Singh’s Patiala Town assembly seat vacant and hold fresh election for it.

The state assembly had also directed the state’s chief secretary to lodge a criminal case against him and put him to “custodial interrogation” to “find out where Singh has hidden his ill-gotten wealth”.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court earlier last year had suspended the state assembly’s specific direction to put Singh to custodial interrogation. The court, however, had given the state’s Vigilance Bureau the freedom to arrest and interrogate him if it’s required as per the law.

Later as Singh approached the apex court seeking relief, including restoration of his membership to the house, the apex court had Oct 3 last year stopped the state assembly from declaring his Patiala Town seat vacant.

The apex court had also stopped the poll panel from holding by-election on Singh’s Patiala seat as per the state assembly directions.

But on Singh’s plea to restore his membership, a three-judge bench of Justice B.N. Agrawal had said it would be able to ascertain the legality or otherwise of his expulsion before the next sitting of the assembly in February.

But the three judge bench later had referred the issue to a larger bench saying the constitutional question as to whether a house can expel a member for his alleged misdeed during the tenure of the earlier house needs to be looked into closely by a constitution bench.

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