The stage has been set for a face-off between Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly and the judiciary over the suspension of YSR Congress MLA and actress R.K. Roja from the House for a period of one year on 18 December 2015. The development follows Speaker K. Siva Prasada Rao’s refusal to honour the order of Hyderabad High Court which said the suspension was illegal and that Roja must be allowed to enter the House on Friday. Roja, who protested on the Assembly premises under a hot sun on Saturday, was admitted to the NIMS Hospital because of sunstroke.
The situation is expected to flare up as the Speaker has called for a meeting of the Legislative Privileges Committee on Sunday, 20 March to discuss the issue, while Roja and YSR Congress are going to file a contempt of court petition in the HC against the Speaker.
The HC bench headed by Justice A. Ramalingeswar Rao, who delivered the order, acted on the prodding from a Supreme Court bench comprising Justice Gopala Gouda and Justice Arun Mishra who expressed their anguish over the HC earlier rejecting Roja’s petition challenging her suspension.
Justice Ramalingeswar Rao, in his order, found fault with the proceedings of the Assembly, which passed a resolution by voice vote suspending Roja under Rule 340 (2) for passing “highly objectionable remarks” against Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu during a discussion on the call money scam. She had said: “People of AP are calling Naidu as ‘Kama Naidu’ (an abbreviation for call [ka] money [ma]).”
As the word “kama” or lecherous refers to the sex racket that was also run by the call money mafia in some districts of AP, the ruling TDP took strong objection to Roja’s remarks and insisted on her suspension from the House for a period of one year. Later the matter was referred to the Privileges Committee and Ethics Committee.
Justice Ramalingeswar Rao, in his order, particularly dealt with the procedural aspects of the Assembly resolution which suspended Roja. The judge made it clear that the Rule 340 (2) specifically states that the House can suspend a member for a period not exceeding the remaining portion of the session (which lasted till 22 December 2015).
The judge also made it clear in his orders that he was not precluding the proceedings of the Privileges Committee or any other House panel that deal with Roja’s issue. Justice Rao overruled the Additional AG’s contention that Article 212 of the Constitution forebids the courts from intervening in matters related to House proceedings.
The Andhra Pradesh Assembly in Hyderabad witnessed high drama as the Speaker decided not to allow Roja to enter the House as per a High Court’s interim order, which was delivered on Thursday. Roja submitted the copies of the order on Thursday to Legislature Secretary K. Satyanarayana Rao and went to the Assembly on Friday morning to attend the House at 8.45 am.
However, Assembly marshals, acting on the directives from the Speaker, did not allow her to enter the House. A battery of YSR Congress MLAs led by Opposition Leader Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy staged a dharna, first at Gate no. 2 and then before the statue of Mahatma Gandhi, protesting the Speaker’s decision not to honour the HC orders.
The Speaker, who held a series of meetings with Legislative Affairs Minister Yanamala Ramakrishnudu, has decided to follow three steps on the issue: first, to file an appeal before a division bench of the HC on the single bench’s order; second, to seek the views of the House on Monday on the HC order; and third, to move a fresh suspension motion in the House.
The SC has already expressed its displeasure over the manner in which Roja was suspended for a year. The bench comprising Justice Gouda and Justice Mishra on Wednesday had commented that suspension of legislators for long periods was not good for democracy.
AP government Chief Whip K. Srinivasulu, who spoke to The Sunday Guardian on Friday, however, downplayed fears of a standoff between the Assembly and the judiciary. While, YSR Congress spokesman Ambati Rambabu said, “We will move the courts again and fight till justice is done.”