As the political battle in Maharashtra moves to the Supreme Court, the role and powers of the Deputy Speaker are in focus.
- In the context of the crisis, references have been made to the landmark judgment in ‘Kihoto Hollohan vs Zachillhu And Others’ (1992).
GS II- Polity and Government
Dimensions of the Article:
- What is the ‘Kihoto Hollohan’ case?
- What did the Supreme Court rule in ‘Kihoto Hollohan’?
- What was the dissenting opinion?
- What about the role of the Deputy Speaker?
What is the ‘Kihoto Hollohan’ case?
- The law covering the disqualification of lawmakers and the powers of the Speaker in deciding such matters became part of the statute book in 1985 when the Tenth Schedule to the Constitution, commonly known as the ‘anti-defection law’, was adopted.
- A constitutional challenge to the Tenth Schedule was mounted, which was settled by the apex court in ‘Kihoto Hollohan’.
- The principal question before the Supreme Court in the case was whether the powerful role given to the Speaker violated the doctrine of basic structure — the judicial principle that certain basic features of the Constitution cannot be altered by amendments by Parliament.
- The Supreme Court laid down the doctrine of basic principle in its landmark judgment in ‘Kesavananda Bharati vs State Of Kerala’ (1973).
What did the Supreme Court rule in ‘Kihoto Hollohan’?
- The petitioners in ‘Kihoto Hollohan’ argued whether it was fair that the Speaker should have such broad powers, given that there is always a reasonable likelihood of bias.
- The majority judgment authored by Justices M N Venkatachaliah and K Jayachandra Reddy answered this question in the affirmative. It read-
- The Speakers/Chairmen hold a pivotal position in the scheme of Parliamentary democracy and are guardians of the rights and privileges of the House.
- They are expected to and do take far reaching decisions in the Parliamentary democracy.
- Vestiture of power to adjudicate questions under the Tenth Schedule in them should not be considered exceptionable.
- The provisions were “salutory and intended to strengthen the fabric of Indian Parliamentary democracy by curbing unprincipled and unethical political defections.”
What was the dissenting opinion?
- Justices Lalit Mohan Sharma and J S Verma dissented and took a different view.
- The tenure of the Speaker, who is the authority in the Tenth Schedule to decide this dispute, is dependent on the continuous support of the majority in the House.
- Therefore, he does not satisfy the requirement of such an independent adjudicatory authority.
- They advocated for an independent adjudicatory machinery for resolving disputes relating to the competence of Members of the House,
- This is envisaged as an attribute of the democratic system which is a basic feature of our Constitution.
What about the role of the Deputy Speaker?
- Article 93 of the Constitution mentions the positions of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of the People (Lok Sabha), and Article 178 contains the corresponding position for Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of a state.
- Maharashtra has been without a Speaker since February 2021, and Deputy has been carrying out the responsibilities of the position.
- Article 95(1) says: “While the office of Speaker is vacant, the duties of the office shall be performed by the Deputy Speaker”.
- In general, the Deputy Speaker has the same powers as the Speaker when presiding over a sitting of the House.
- All references to the Speaker in the Rules are deemed to be references to the Deputy Speaker when he presides.
-Source: Indian Express