Speaker’s Role in Defection
Mar 03, 2023
Speaker’s Role in Defection
Q. Why is this in News?
A. Hearing a case related to the Maharashtra crisis in 2022 and whether a speaker facing a notice for his removal can disqualify MLAs in his assembly, the Supreme Court (SC) on February 15, 2023 maintained that Speakers should be the first authority to decide on disqualification.
- Earlier in 2016, the SC in the Nabam Rebia case had held that a Speaker or Deputy Speaker facing notice of removal cannot decide disqualification proceedings against legislators.
Q. What are the Debates over Discretion of the Speaker's Role?
- For the past three years, the All India Presiding Officer's Conference, chaired by Lok Sabha Speaker, has been reviewing the Speaker's role as envisaged in the 10th Schedule of the Constitution that deals with disqualification of MPs and MLAs.
- The focus of the discussions is to secure the legislative speaker's dignity in this matter. Many presiding officers have expressed views that their role should be limited and other mechanisms must evolve to decide cases of defection.
- One proposal being discussed is to leave the issue of disqualification to the respective political parties as they give tickets to the MLAs.
- During a Speaker's Conference in Dehradun in 2021, several participants voiced their concerns and pointed out loopholes that often cast a shadow on the speaker's role.
Q. What is the 10th Schedule of the Indian Constitution?
- The Tenth Schedule of the Indian Constitution, also known as the Anti-Defection Law, was added by the 52nd Amendment in 1985.
- It was a response to the toppling of multiple state governments by party-hopping MLAs after the general elections of 1967.
- It lays down the provisions related to disqualification of members of Parliament (MPs) and State Legislatures on grounds of defection.
- It allows a group of MP/MLAs to join (i.e., merge with) another political party without inviting the penalty for defection.
- And it does not penalise political parties for encouraging or accepting defecting legislators.
- As per the 1985 Act, a 'defection' by one-third of the elected members of a political party was considered a 'merger'.
- But the 91st Constitutional Amendment Act, 2003, changed this and now at least two-thirds of the members of a party must be in Favour of a "merger" for it to have validity in the eyes of the law.
- The decision on questions as to disqualification on ground of defection are referred to the Chairman or the Speaker of such House, which is subject to ‘Judicial review’.
- However, the law does not provide a timeframe within which the presiding officer has to decide a defection case.
- Grounds for Defection:
- If an elected member voluntarily gives up his membership of a political party.
- If he/she votes or abstains from voting in such House contrary to any direction issued by his political party.
- If any independently elected member joins any political party.
- If any nominated member joins any political party after the expiry of six months.
Q. What is the Conclusion?
A. The role of the Speaker in defection cases is crucial for ensuring the stability and integrity of the government and the democratic system. It is also important to note that the Speaker has to act in a fair and impartial manner while deciding such cases, and the decisions should be guided by the principles of natural justice and the provisions of the Constitution.