14th November 2019
TOPIC: Parliament and State Legislatures. (Paper II)
Discuss the anti-defection law and its use in current politics.
While upholding the Karnataka Speaker’s orders disqualifying 17 defectors this year, the Supreme Court has allowed the former legislators to contest the by-elections to Assembly seats.
- Most of them had tried to resign from their respective parties in July. It was seen as a ploy to bring down the JD(S)-Congress regime of H.D. Kumaraswamy.
- The suspicion was that they would get ministerial positions as soon as BJP formed a BJP government.
- The then Speaker kept them at bay for days by refusing to act on their resignations.
- Ultimately, he disqualified all of them and said the disqualification would go on till 2023 — the end of the current Assembly’s term.
- The Speaker’s stance was quite controversial as it created a conflict between resignation and disqualification.
- Now, his argument that resignation could not be an excuse to evade a disqualification has been accepted.
- The Speaker was also hoping to keep the defectors out of any alternative regime as members disqualified for defection are barred from becoming ministers until they get re-elected.
What happens now?
- The former Janata Dal (S) and Congress MLAs are free to contest the polls.
- They may reap the benefits of their crossover by getting a ticket from the ruling BJP.
- On the one hand, resignation does not take away the effect of a prior act that amounts to disqualification.
- On the other, Speakers are not given a free pass to sit on resignation letters indefinitely.
- Under Article 190(3), a provision under which the Speaker has to ascertain the “voluntary” and “genuine” nature of a resignation before accepting it, the court is clear that it is a limited inquiry to see if the letter is authentic and if the intent to quit is based on free will.
- Once it is demonstrated that a member is willing to resign out of his free will, the Speaker has no option but to accept the resignation, the court said.
- This ends the argument that the Speaker is empowered to consider the motives and circumstances whenever a resignation is submitted.
- The verdict bemoans the fact that Speakers tend not to be neutral, and that change of loyalty for the lure of office continues despite the anti-defection law.
Identifying its weak aspects and strengthening the law may be the answer.