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SC on speakers Examine powers of Speakers, SC asks Parliament

January 22, 2020 05:38 AM


SC on speakers
Examine powers of Speakers, SC asks Parliament
RELOOK Speaker belongs to one party or another, observes court

Murali Krishnan and Saubhadra Chatterjee

NEW DELHI : The wisdom of the legislature in entrusting Speakers (of the state assembly or parliament) with the responsibility of ruling on the disqualification of lawmakers who defect (shift parties) needs to be revisited, the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday in a case on defection of a Congress MLA from Manipur.

Interestingly, the judgment comes at a time when a discussion is already underway among presiding officers of legislatures on how to secure the legislative Speaker’s “dignity” in the matters related to the defection of lawmakers. As first reported by HT, in two conferences in as many months, many presiding officers have expressed the view that their role vis-à-vis the tenth schedule should be limited and other mechanisms must be evolved to decide cases of defection. The tenth schedule deals with the anti-defection law.

A top functionary of the Lok Sabha said on condition of anonymity that a panel has already been constituted by Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla on the issue and that many assembly Speakers have voluntarily sought a reduction of their power as far as the tenth schedule is concerned.

The judgment of the apex court is likely to add to that discussion. The judgment was rendered by a bench of justices Rohinton Nariman, Aniruddha Bose and V Ramasubramanian. The bench urged Parliament to rethink whether disqualification petitions ought to be entrusted to a Speaker under the tenth schedule of the Constitution.

This is considering the fact that the Speaker continues to belong to a particular political party. “It is time that Parliament has a rethink on whether disqualification petitions ought to be entrusted to a Speaker as a quasi-judicial authority when such Speaker continues to belong to a particular party either de jure or de facto”, the judgment said.

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