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OVERCOME THE MALAISE OF DEFECTION

Focus: GS-II Governance

Introduction

Supreme Court (SC) judgments say it is, as do the elaborate parliamentary debates preceding the anti-defection law enacted in 1985.

How are the Defectors taking Advantage of loopholes?

  1. First, if the ruling party wants to prolong itself in office with support from other parties’ legislators acting against their own parties, individual pliant speakers are available to never decide disqualification petitions against them for years.
  2. Second, is the engineered resignations of legislators in a ruling dispensation by a desperate Opposition promising them lucrative ministerships if they ensure that the Opposition comes to power. It helps that these “toppling” agents are entitled to at least six months of ministerial portfolios in the new government, even if they fail to get re-elected.
  3. Third, the office of the governor can also be misused, ready to interfere by giving directions to Speakers to have floor tests within 48/72 hours, only to assist the defectors to topple the government and preclude the speaker from discharging his 10th Schedule duties.
  4. Fourth, clear defectors, even after being subjected to ongoing disqualification hearings before the speaker, are advised by lawyers to file no-confidence motions against the speaker.

Way Forward

  1. One, we should abolish all artificial distinctions which, under the 10th Schedule, which now legitimises defections if you are able to induce two-thirds to join you. The 10th Schedule should be replaced with a simple provision itemising all activities, culled from established SC cases, both inside the House and outside it, which will automatically disqualify you and force you to be re-elected in case of anti-party activities.
  2. Two, no one who resigns or is disqualified under this new listing, should be allowed to be a minister or corporation post holder, for six months or a year even after re-election. A parliamentary standing committee had once observed: “There is possibility for defection – as the defectors can be accommodated in the Council of Ministers through the other route i.e., by offering a seat in Rajya Sabha/Upper House in the States. Stringent law, which debars defectors who later become Members of the Rajya Sabha to get the post of Ministership, is required.”
  3. Three, we should start electing speakers, by all or majority of parties unanimously selecting an appropriate person before each general election as presiding officer – because, the moral and political authority of such a person will be larger.
  4. Four, the governor should be constitutionally and explicitly barred from anything but a ceremonial role in the legislature to prevent meddling in the running of the House and the government.

-Source: Hindustan Times

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October 2022
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