The Hindu Editorial Vocabulary– Jan 31, 2022; Day 224
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Difficult Word/ PhraseContextual Sense
Irrational Not consistent with or using reason
Disorderly Undisciplined and unruly
Traverse To cover or extend over an area or time period
Precedent a law established by following earlier judicial decisions
Punitive Inflicting punishment
Vehemently showing strong and often angry feelings
Graded Assign a rank or rating to
Obstructionist Someone who systematically obstructs some action that others want to take
Gratifying Pleasing to the mind
Grapple Succeed in doing, achieving, or producing (something) with the limited or inadequate means available
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Limits of power: On Maharashtra MLAs suspension case

The Supreme Court serves a reminder that the House should work within constitutional parameters

In ruling that the one-year suspension imposed last year by the Maharashtra Assembly on 12 BJP legislators was illegal and irrational (Not consistent with or using reason), the Supreme Court has set the limits of the legislature’s power to deal with disorderly (Undisciplined and unruly) conduct in the House. It has laid down a significant principle that the effect of disciplinary action cannot traverse (To cover or extend over an area or time period) beyond the session in which the cause arose. Citing precedents (a law established by following earlier judicial decisions) from rulings of the Privy Council and the Supreme Court, the Court has sought to read the power of the House to suspend a member as essentially defensive or ‘self-protective’ so that disorderly conduct does not overwhelm its proceedings, but it should not assume a punitive (Inflicting punishment) character. Therefore, the suspension beyond the duration of the session was illegal. It was deemed irrational because the need to exercise the power was limited to restoring order in the House; logically, it was not needed beyond the day, or in case of repeated disorderly conduct, to the session so that scheduled business could be completed. It has termed the one-year suspension as a punitive action worse than expulsion. Its reasoning is that if a member is expelled by a resolution of the House, the Election Commission is bound to hold a by-election within six months and the member could seek re-election. On the contrary, the year-long suspension will mean that the constituency remains unrepresented, while there would be no vacancy to be filled through a by-election.

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The State government argued vehemently (showing strong and often angry feelings) that there was no limit to the action that the House could take for maintaining order and the Court could not examine the proportionality of the action. Rule 53 of the Assembly allowed the Speaker to adopt a graded (Assign a rank or rating to) approach to disorderly conduct; naming members after which they should withdraw from the House for the day, and, in the case of the conduct being repeated, for the rest of the session. However, the Government insisted that the suspension was imposed under the inherent power of the Assembly to ensure orderly functioning. Even then, the Court ruled, in the absence of a rule enabling such a power, the House had to adopt a graded approach and that the same-session limit could not be breached. Referring to the bar under Article 212 of the Constitution on the judiciary examining the regularity of the procedure adopted by the House, the three-judge Bench ruled that the present action was illegal and irrational, and not a mere irregularity of procedure. The ruling is yet another reminder to legislative bodies that their functioning is subject to constitutional parameters. In an era when the government side accuses the Opposition of being obstructionist (Someone who systematically obstructs some action that others want to take), and the Opposition alleges that it is being silenced, it is gratifying (Pleasing to the mind) that the higher judiciary grapples (Succeed in doing, achieving, or producing (something) with the limited or inadequate means available) with questions related to the limits of the power exercised by the majority in the legislature.

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