Citizens get right to move against defecting legislators

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Supreme Court of India
New Delhi, Jan 18: In an important judgement, the Supreme Court seems to have widened the scope of anti-defection law (Tenth Schedule of the Constitution) and said yesterday that a non-member can file a petition seeking disqualification of members from the state assemblies for switching loyalty.

The court judgement could give a citizen to move against opportunistic politicians who indulge in party-hopping and also put a stop to horse-trading of legislators like it happened in Jharkhand or Karnataka.

The apex court on Thursday concurred with the judgement of the Orissa High Court which had rejected the contentions of Speaker of the State Assembly that the petition filed by the state NCP chief for disqualification of four of its members for shifting loyalty to the ruling BJD was not maintainable as he was not a member in the House.

But a bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and comprising Justices J Chelameswar and Vikramajit Sen said it was "unable to agree" with the contention of the Speaker that NCP chief Utkal Keshari Parida, who was not the member of the Assembly has no locus standi to seek disqualification of four members who shifted loyalty without any notice.

"In such event, if the provisions of the Tenth Schedule are interpreted to exclude the right of any person interested to bring to the notice of the speaker of the house the fact that any or some of its members had incurred disqualification from the membership of the house on any of the eventualities indicated in paragraphs 2 and 4 therein, it would render the inclusion of the Tenth Schedule to the constitution otiose and defeat the objects and intent of the 52nd amendment of the constitution," the judgment said.

On receipt of such information, the speaker would be entitled to decide whether the member concerned had, in fact, incurred such disqualification and to pass appropriate orders on his findings, the court said.

The bench dismissed the appeal filed by the Speaker against the High Court's findings which concluded that it was abundantly clear that if any Member of the House belonging to a political party had joined another political party, which is a disqualification under paragraph 2(1) of the Tenth Schedule.

The apex court concurred that any person interested could make a reference to the Speaker under Rule 6 of the 1987 Rules and it was not necessary that such a reference had to be made by a Member of the Legislative Assembly. The four NCP MLAs -- Amar Prasad Satpathy, Ramachandra Hansdah, Prashant Nanda and Nabin Nanda -- had joined the BJD on Jun 5, 2012.

The "evil of political defection had become a matter of national concern and if it was not checked, it could very well undermine the very foundation of our democracy and the principles which sustain the same," the court said.

Before the anti-defection law came into force, approximately 50 per cent of the legislators had changed their party affiliations.

OneIndia News

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