Team Absolute|Bhopal The Madhya Pradesh Assembly Speaker has informed the Supreme Court that the disqualification petitions filed on March 10 and 15 against 22 Congress MLAs, who switched side to BJP, were decided on June 12 by the then Protem Speaker within three months maximum time period, set up by the top court in a 2020 judgement. Speaker, Rameshwar Sharma, who was appointed on July 2, said 22 former MLAs ceased to be members of the Assembly when their resignations were accepted by the erstwhile Speaker on March 10. He maintained the disqualification petitions against them were filed on March 10 and 15. “The time taken in deciding disqualification petition was due to resignation of erstwhile Speaker and due to unprecedented situation arising out of Covid-19 pandemic, which forced complete lockdown in the country,” the speaker said. Congress government in Madhya Pradesh could not continue and the Chief Minister Kamal Nath had to put in his papers on March 20, 2020, after resignations of 22 Congress MLAs, owing allegiance to Jyotiraditya Scindia. He said the decision was communicated to Congress party leaders on July 30. “The delay in communicating the decision was because of the reason that the erstwhile Speaker was also appointed as a minister and the Legislative Assembly was not functioning to its full strength due to widespread Covid-19 virus and was even closed for some time to contain the virus,” the Speaker said. Notably, the decision of dismissing the disqualification petitions filed by Congress MLAs Govind Singh and Lakhan Singh Yadav was taken by the Protem Speaker on the ground that resignations of 22 MLAs were accepted on March 10 and 15 by the then Speaker. The present Speaker was responding to a petition filed by Congress party’s Jabalpur North MLA Vinay Saxena, who contended that such MLAs can’t be allowed to get appointed and remain as a minister in the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government during the pendency of their disqualification proceedings. He claimed during the pendency of disqualification petitions, 12 out of 22 MLAs have been appointed as ministers on July 2. They said even Jagdish Deora, who was earlier acting as the Assembly Speaker, has been appointed as a minister. In his reply, the Speaker said the contention made by Saxena that the disqualification petitions of 22 MLAs was intentionally not decided was “completely incorrect, baseless and erroneous.” Saxena claimed the disqualification petitions should have been decided within three months as held by the top court in the Keisham Meghachandra Singh Vs Manipur Assembly Speaker (2020). A bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian is scheduled to take up on Tuesday the writ petition by Saxena who, the Speaker claimed, did not have any locus standi as he neither had filed the disqualification petitions nor was there any violation of his fundamental rights. Now, Saxena has filed an application seeking a stay on June 12 order, saying it has been passed by Protem Speaker which was against the spirit of the Tenth Schedule (antidefection law) and suffered from “mala fides, perversity, and grave violation of constitutional mandate and principles of natural justice”. “The entire purpose was to frustrate the disqualification proceedings and safeguard the ex-MLAs who have now joined the ruling party’s fold and acting as ministers in the government,” his plea stated. He contended when notice on disqualification petitions was issued on March 13 and 17, the pleas could not have been dismissed on the ground their resignations were accepted on March 10, their date of resignations. He also sought a direction to restrain former MLAs from acting as ministers during the pendency of the matter. A petition filed by advocate Aradhana Bhargava through advocate Vipin Nair is also coming up for consideration on Tuesday wherein she questioned the appointment of 14 former Congress MLAs as ministers in Shivraj Singh Chouhan government.