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Apex Court’s Remarks on Speaker’s Powers—Centre Sleeps on Law Comm Recommendations 

Hyderabad, Jan.23 (P.A. Rama Rao): The Supreme Court’s  strong suggestion to the Parliament to revisit the powers of the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and State Legislatures and creation of an Independent and permanent body to decide on disqualification of petitions against lawmakers (M Ps, MLAs and MLCs),  is highly laudable  and welcome one, particularly in the context of  inaction of the Presiding Officers in taking action against the defectors in several States of late, and defeating the very  purpose of the anti-defection Law. Needless to say, in many recent cases, the Presiding Officers acted in accordance with the wishes of the ruling party Bosses (Chief Ministers), to suit their interests.

A three-judge Bench of the Apex Court made the suggestion, in it’s judgment on Wednesday,  in a case relating to  the disqualification of Forest and Environment Minister Shyamkumar in Manipur, who won on a Congress ticket but later joined the BJP-led Government in the State.  Two congress MLAs submitted a petition to the Speaker of the State Assembly, but the latter sat on it without taking action. The High Court, on a petition, passed adverse comments on the Speaker’s lack of action, but refrained from deciding on disqualification of the Member for want of jurisdiction under the anti-defection Law.  The Supreme Court, in the present case, directed the Speaker to decide on the disqualification petition within four weeks.

The Bench observed: “It is time that Parliament have 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 political party either de jure or de facto”

It may pointed out  in this context that the Constitutional Heads like the President and Vice-President of India have  time and again emphasized on reforms in the Legislature set-up and rethinking on the powers of the Presiding Officers not only in regard to disqualification cases but also other matters;  but unfortunately, the Governments at the Centre and the Parliament have failed to take serious note of the same.  More than 16 months ago, the Vice-resident Venkaiah Naidu had laid emphasis on issues like the need for a code of conduct for politicians both inside and outside the Parliament and Legislatures, implementation of the Anti-defection Law in letter and spirit expeditiously, within three months, and the like.

More than that, nearly five years ago, the Law Commission headed by Justice A P Shah, had, on March 12, 2015, submitted it’s report to the Union Law Ministry,  making major recommendations relating to Electoral reforms, which include barring a candidate from contesting from more than one Constituency, paid news be made an electoral offence, the matter relating to disqualification of a member should not be left to the discretion of the  Presiding Officers of Legislatures, etc. During his tenure as President, Pranab Mukherjee had also suggested electoral reforms.

Now that the apex court had  expressed serious concern over the non-Implementation of the Anti-Defection law  and other issues, all lovers  and champions of democratic principles  expect  that the Union Government  and the Parliament would  take note of the issue and initiate remedial measures without further loss of time. We have to wait and see what action the Government takes in the matter !!

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