Anti-defection law: Power to disqualify member should solely wrest with Speaker

Our Bureau Bengaluru | Updated on May 28, 2020

A clear sky above the Vikasa Soudha building in Bengaluru, on Wednesday. Pic: GRN Somashekar

Opposition parties — the Indian National Congress and the Janata Dal Secular (JDS) — have insisted on powers to be with the Speaker of the House to check defections (anti-defection law), specifying a time frame to handle a case, and to take into account the conduct of a member before taking a decision.

The parties made their representation at the specially-convened meet of parliamentarians and legal experts on Thursday for reviewing the relevance of the Constitution’s 10th Schedule introduced in 1985 to check for defections.

Karnataka’s Legislative Assembly Speaker, Vishveshwara Hegde Kageri, said that Lok Sabha Speaker, Om Birla, had constituted a three-member committee of Speakers of Karnataka, Rajasthan and Odisha Legislative Assemblies to review the relevance of the anti-defection law.

Thursday’s meet was attended by Karnataka’s Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa, Cabinet Ministers, Leader of Opposition, Siddaramaiah, and Congress and JDS leaders. The Government’s Advocate-General and the Law Secretary attended the meeting as well.

The meeting assumes significance in the wake of the Supreme Court’s observation about “a growing trend of Speakers of legislative bodies acting against the constitutional duty of being neutral”.

Siddaramaiah, representing the Congress party, said that reforms to the Act are relevant. He said the Speaker should be given all the powers take a suitable decision. Drawing attention to Supreme Court’s observation of appointing a retired judge, he said: “By appointing them, it amounts to interference by the judiciary. The 10th Schedule clearly empowers the Speaker and he must be given the power to take decision.”

He added: “We recommend conduct of the member before his resignation should be taken onto account and a 6-year ban on contesting elections.”

Former chief minister and senior JDS leader, HD Kumaraswamy, in his representation said that currently, there is no time frame fixed. “Therefore it is incumbent to amend the rules by fixing a time-frame to a maximum of six months from the date of receipt of petition.”

For hearing the disqualification petition, he said: “It is high time that Parliament amends the Constitution by ensuring that a constitutional court preside and hears the disqualification petition against the members of the House. Any member who is disqualified under the Tenth schedule should be barred from contesting elections for at least 10 years from the date of order. Also, then his family members (namely father, mother, son, daughter) should be barred from contesting elections for the vacated seat.”

Published on May 28, 2020

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