Stand-off continues between 2 new TMC MLAs & Governor over oath-taking — what Constitution says

Stand-off continues between 2 new TMC MLAs & Governor over oath-taking — what Constitution says

Kolkata: The two newly elected Trinamool Congress (TMC) MLAs of West Bengal should take oath at the Raj Bhavan before taking their seat in the legislative assembly to participate in its proceedings, West Bengal Governor C.V. Ananda Bose said in a four-page statement Friday, in a continuation of the suspense over the ceremony.

With this, Bose has dug in his heels after TMC MLAs Rayat Hossain and Sayantika Banerjee, who recently won by-elections, refused to accept his invitation to affirm their oath in the Raj Bhavan over sexual misconduct allegations against him, sparking off a stand-off.

“It is expected of public representatives to abide by the Constitution and not generate erroneous and slanderous impressions, obliquely adverse to the Governor in (the) public mind. The alibis floated in (the) public domain are untenable,” Bose’s statement said. 

The two MLAs have been staging a sit-in demonstration before the Ambedkar statue outside Vidhan Sabha for the last five days now, holding placards that read “waiting for the Governor”.

However, legal experts said that the MLAs have no recourse but to take their oath according to the Constitutional provisions — Article 188 and Article 193 arm the Governor.

Article 188 states that every member of the legislative assembly or council of a state — before taking the seat — shall make and subscribe before the Governor or some person appointed on that behalf by him an oath or affirmation, according to the form set out for the purpose in the Third Schedule of the Constitution.

Article 193 defines the penalty if an MLA joins assembly proceedings before taking oath under Article 188. “If a person sits or votes as a member of the legislative assembly or the legislative council of a state before he has complied with the requirements of Article 188, or when he knows that he is not qualified or that he is disqualified for membership thereof, or that he is prohibited from so doing by the provisions of any law made by Parliament or the legislature of the state, he shall be liable in respect of each day on which he so sits or votes to a penalty of five hundred rupees to be recovered as a debt due to the state,” it reads.

West Bengal Assembly Speaker Biman Banerjee instead has written to President Droupadi Murmu and dialled Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar, the former governor of West Bengal, asking them to intervene to end the impasse.

Bengal Governor C.V. Ananda Bose is now in New Delhi on a pre-scheduled visit.

Speaking to ThePrint, TMC MLA Sayantika Banerjee, who won in the Baranagar byelection, said that she doesn’t feel safe going to Raj Bhavan after a female staffer raised alleged sexual misconduct allegations against Bose.

“He had invited us on Wednesday, but we had written to him, requesting him to assign the Speaker to administer our oath, but he did not. Even after being elected by the people, we aren’t able to discharge our duties and serve the people as the oath is pending,” she added. 

Banerjee and Hossain, who won the Bhagwangola seat, have demanded to take their oath before Speaker Banerjee instead.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Thursday took a swipe at Bose while addressing the media at the state secretariat, saying that the Governor isn’t allowing the oath and the way things are happening at the Raj Bhavan, women are not feeling safe to go there.

Speaking to ThePrint, senior lawyer of Calcutta High Court B. Basu Mallick said, “It is unheard of that the venue of oath-taking can become a point of standoff between the constitutional head and a political party. The MLAs cannot join the assembly session unless they take oath, but this situation is unprecedented.”

“The Governor is a constitutional head, and while he has to administer the oath of the chief minister, council of ministers and the chief justice of the high court, he can appoint the speaker or the deputy speaker to administer the oath of the MLAs,” he added.

Governor Bose, who has not issued a fresh date for the oath-taking after the MLAs skipped their Wednesday appointment, added in his statement Friday: “God help my beloved people of Bengal and may give them strength to bear this circus of absurdities. People want progress, development, accountability, transparency and a violence-free and corruption-free Bengal. It is the chief minister’s duty to ensure them that. I am with my people and shall always be with them, come what may.”

(Edited by Madhurita Goswami)

Also read: Water-sharing talks with Bangladesh without consulting Bengal not acceptable, Mamata writes to Modi


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