Chewan D SE
Gangtok, 07 Sep : Barely four months after the Election Commission of India (ECI) ruled out the disqualification of 13 other legislators of Sikkim on grounds of holding office of profit, Chujachen MLA Bikram Pradhan has also been relieved from the case with the poll panel stating that the office of chief whip is exempted from disqualification.
Pradhan along with 13 other sitting MLAs of the ruling SDF were named in the office of profit case filed by Sikkim Subject Committee vice convenor Nawin Kiran Pradhan and others in a petition seeking their disqualification.
The petitioners in their case before the High Court of Sikkim contended that the 11 legislators (including 7 former SKM MLAs) appointed as parliamentary secretaries and three other including Pradhan as the chief whip and chairpersons of various committees be disqualified for holding office of profit.
The 11 MLAs ceased to hold the office of parliamentary secretaries after the High Court in its 25th August 2017 judgment quashed the Sikkim Parliamentary Secretaries (Appointment, Salaries, Allowances and Miscellaneous provisions) Act, 2010.
The case was subsequently taken before then Governor Shriniwas Patil in October seeking disqualification of the 14 MLAs under Clause I (a) of Article 191 of the Constitution of India.
As per then Governor Patil’s response, the ECI had ruled that the 13 MLAs excluding Pradhan will not be disqualified for holding office of profit as the offices occupied by them are not offices under the government.
However, the commission did not give any opinion in respect of Bikram Pradhan, due to non-availability of complete information at the time. The Chujachen MLA in his reply filed on June 21, relied on Sikkim Legislative Assembly (Removal of Disqualification) Amendment Act, 1996 vide which clause 3(aa) was added to the Sikkim Legislative Assembly (Removal of Disqualification) Act, 1978 which provides for adding the office of the government chief whip to the list of exempted offices.
In a recent response issued by Chief Election Commissioner O.P. Rawat and election commissioners Sunil Arora and Ashok Lavasa, the poll panel opined that the office of chief whip under the Government of Sikkim falls under exempted category and the disqualification, if any, attracted by holding the office of chief whip stands removed by the operation of the said Act of 1978 and therefore Bikram Pradhan is not disqualified for holding office of profit.
Governor Patil had on August 6 opined that the office of government chief whip under the Government of Sikkim falls under exempted category and that Bikram Pradhan is not disqualified from being a member of the Sikkim Legislative Assembly.