Disqualification proceedings against suspended Jharkhand Congress MLAs deferred
Irfan Ansari, Naman Bixel Kongari, and Rajesh Kacchap emailed Mahto saying they were stuck in Kolkata due to their bail conditions
Jharkhand assembly speaker Rabindra Nath Mahto on Thursday deferred the hearing on the disqualification proceedings against suspended Congress legislators Irfan Ansari, Naman Bixel Kongari, and Rajesh Kacchap until September 5 after the three emailed him saying they were stuck in Kolkata due to their bail conditions.
The three informed Mahto that they do not have access to gadgets such as laptops or smartphones to join the proceedings virtually and requested deferment of the proceedings till their interim bail condition to stay in Kolkata at least till November 10 is vacated.
During the proceedings that lasted for about 15 minutes on Thursday, Ujjawal Anand, the lawyer for the complainant and Congress legislature party leader Alamgir Alam, accused the three of delaying tactics. He cited a Supreme Court judgement that such hearings should be completed within three months. Anand referred to the assets of the three and said it is difficult to believe that they cannot afford a smartphone to join proceedings online. He sought a laptop or a smartphone for the lawmakers to ensure they do not delay the proceedings.
The three were arrested in Kolkata on July 30 with ₹49 lakh cash. The Congress has alleged they were paid money to topple their chief minister Hemant Soren-led coalition government at the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s behest. The three were granted interim bail even as the West Bengal Police were investigating the matter.
Three other Congress legislators alleged the suspended lawmakers approached them with offers to switch sides and topple the government and prompted Alam to seek their disqualification.
Congress has 18 legislators in the state and is the second major constituent of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha-led coalition which also includes a lone Rashtriya Janata Dal member. The ruling alliance has 49 members in the 81-member House and the BJP 26.
Mahto has concluded anti-defection proceedings against BJP leader and former chief minister Babulal Marandi and reserved the judgment.
The developments come amid political uncertainty following the Election Commission of India’s ostensible recommendation for Soren’s disqualification as an assembly member. The ruling coalition has accused the BJP of trying to pull down the government. Marandi is seen as the front runner for the chief ministerial post.