Come August 7, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla will have to take two significant decisions. One pertains to restoring Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s membership, and the other on the possible disqualification of BJP MP Ram Shankar Katheria. The Supreme Court on August 4 had stayed the conviction of Gandhi in a defamation case against him, thus paving the way for restoration of his Lok Sabha membership. Gandhi’s Lok Sabha membership is likely to be restored by August 7 or 8. A notification is also likely to be issued regarding the restoration of Gandhi’s Lok Sabha membership. The documents pertaining to the Supreme Court’s order in Gandhi’s case have been received by the Speaker’s office.
With the former Congress president set to return to Parliament after his conviction in a defamation case was stayed by the Supreme Court, a question that has been making rounds in political circles is whether he would be able to initiate the Opposition’s no-confidence motion discussion in the House against Prime Minister Narenda Modi-led government. The Congress is keen that Gandhi’s Lok Sabha membership is restored by August 7 at the earliest, which would pave the way for his participation in the no-confidence motion discussion, which is to begin on August 8, and continue till August 10, over a duration of 12 hours.
Gandhi was disqualified within 24 hours after a Surat court convicted him in a defamation case. The same is expected about Katheria. Now that the special MP/MLA court in Agra district on August 5, having sentenced Katheria, BJP MP from Etawah, to two years of imprisonment in a 12-year-old case, the Speaker is also likely to take a call on his possible disqualification, on August 7. Katheria was convicted under IPC sections 147 (rioting) and 323 (voluntarily causing hurt). The court also imposed a penalty of Rs 50,000 on the former union minister. Katheria faces possible disqualification, as the law mandates it in case of imprisonment of two or more years under Representation of People Act, 1951 and also barred from contesting elections for the next six years.
Katheria served as the Minister of State in the HRD Ministry during the first term of the Narendra Modi government, between November 2014 and July 2016. He is currently a member of the Parliament’s standing committee on defence and also of the consultative committee, ministry of home affairs. As per law, Katheria now faces disqualification from the House in the same manner as Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who was disqualified from the Lok Sabha after being convicted and sentenced to a two-year imprisonment by a court in Gujarat’s Surat in March this year. But it is an irony of sorts that the Speaker has to decide on reinstating one MP and disqualify another in the same Parliament session.