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No dish outs, please: Patna HC cracks down on politicians nominated as MLCs

Charu Kartikeya | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 5:35 IST

The practice

  • Political parties often use the \'nominated\' category in state Legislative Councils to rehabilitate politicians.
  • In actuality, this is meant to be reserved for subject experts and eminent people
  • In Bihar, all 12 nominated MLCs are either politicians or have strong political ties

The crackdown

  • The Patna High Court has issued a notice to these 12 MLCs
  • It has asked them to prove their expertise in the fields they were nominated for

More in the story

  • Why the court\'s notice is a landmark
  • Can the court intervene in what is essentially a Governor\'s prerogative?

It's an open secret: political parties arbitrarily use the 'nominated' category of membership to state Legislative Councils.

Ignoring defined constitutional norms, parties often use this mechanism to rehabilitate politicians who cannot make it to the Legislative Assembly. Such politicians either do not want to contest direct elections, or have contested and lost.

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But now, in a development that might have a wide-ranging impact on this process, the Patna High Court has served a landmark notice to all 12 nominated members of the Bihar Legislative Council. The notice requires the MLCs to prove their expertise in the field for which they have been nominated to the council.

Sternly asking the MLCs why their memberships should not be terminated, the court has directed them to provide information about their background, related to their nomination.

These members include a sitting minister in Nitish Kumar's cabinet, JD(U)'s Rajiv Ranjan Singh, who has been nominated in the social work category. Others on this list are:

Javed Iqbal Ansari (social work)

Lalan Kumar Sarraf (social work)

Ramchandra Bharti (social work)

Ram Lashan Ram Raman (social work)

Dr Ramvachan Roy (literature)

Rana Gangeshwar Singh (co-operative movement)

Ranveer Nandan (science)

Samrat Chaudhry (social work)

Shiv Prasann Yadav (social work)

Vijay Kumar Mishra (social work)

Sanjay Kumar Singh (social work)

Claim to fame

Of these 12, the council's chairperson has already terminated the membership of Samrat Chaudhry under the anti-defection law. Shiv Prasann Yadav has also been served a disqualification notice for anti-party activities.

Chaudhry was a cabinet minister in governments led by Nitish Kumar as well as Jitan Ram Manjhi, but later joined Manjhi's camp when the former CM rebelled against Nitish.

The court has asked the 12 members to prove the expertise for which they were nominated

Yadav's disqualification has been sought by the JD(U) because he fielded his son as an independent candidate against the party's official candidate from Daraunda in the 2015 Assembly polls.

Ironically, Sanjay Kumar Singh, who also figures in this list, had petitioned the chairperson seeking these disqualifications. Singh is the JD(U)'s chief whip in the Council.

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Ansari and Ram Raman have both been members of the Assembly in the past. They had left the RJD in 2014 to join the JD(U), following which, they were nominated to the Council and made ministers in Manjhi's cabinet.

Rana Gangeshwar Singh and Vijay Kumar Mishra had left the BJP to join the JD(U).

Rajiv Ranjan unsuccessfully contested the Lok Sabha elections from Munger in 2014.

Sarraf is known to be an old confidante of Nitish Kumar.

Ranveer Nandan is an associate professor of geology at Patna University. He was a BJP leader before joining JD(U).

Roy is a Hindi writer and critic. He was also the RJD's state general secretary, and has been an MLC before. He is currently with the JD(U).

Constitutional norms bypassed

The High Court served the notice while hearing a petition filed by an NGO, Nagarik Adhikar Manch. The petition alleges that these nominations were made in violation of constitutional norms. The NGO has alleged that though the state government was constitutionally empowered to recommend eminent persons from various fields for nomination as MLCs, it had bypassed established norms.

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Instead of personalities from fields like arts, literature and science, several active politicians and former MLAs were nominated as MLCs, the NGO said.

The petitioner informed the court that following the expiry of the term of the previous nominated members on 9 May 2012, all 12 seats lay vacant for 25 months. In 2014, the process for filling up these vacancies was completed in a mere two days.

The state cabinet authorised the CM to fill up the vacant positions on 22 May 2014, and the CM recommended these 12 persons' applications to the Governor the very next day, the NGO claimed. The Governor nominated them the very next day, on 24 May.

Nagarik Adhikar Manch general secretary Ramesh Kumar Chaubey told Catch that even the bio-datas of the members were similar, indicating fabrication. Chaubey also said it was well-known that Legislative Council seats were unofficially sold to those willing to pay a high price.

All 12 nominated members are politicians, and some have been MLAs and MLCs in the past as well

The court has given members time till 8 March to reply to the petition individually.

What is also significant about this judicial intervention is that the state government had challenged the authority of the High Court to question the nomination process, since it was a prerogative of the Governor.

The division bench of Acting Chief Justice Iqbal Ahmed Ansari and Justice Samarendra Pratap Singh conclusively said the court had the right to intervene.

Edited by Shreyas Sharma

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First published: 5 February 2016, 5:30 IST
Charu Kartikeya @CharuKeya

Assistant Editor at Catch, Charu enjoys covering politics and uncovering politicians. Of nine years in journalism, he spent six happily covering Parliament and parliamentarians at Lok Sabha TV and the other three as news anchor at Doordarshan News. A Royal Enfield enthusiast, he dreams of having enough time to roar away towards Ladakh, but for the moment the only miles he's covering are the 20-km stretch between home and work.