Supreme Court Judgments on Anti-Defection: An Analysis
In the year 1967, a Member of Legislative Assembly of Haryana, Gaya Lal changed his political party thrice. The phrase Aaya Ram Gaya Ram was used more than anything throughout the nation in this reference and the same had proved the severity of defection in the political and administrative system of the country.
Kihoto Hollohan vs Zachillhu And Others (1992)
- Supreme Court upheld the validity of the Anti-defection law and made the Speaker’s order subject to judicial review on limited grounds.
- It made clear that the court’s jurisdiction would not come into play unless the Speaker passes an order, no intervention prior to adjudication.
- 10th Schedule Provisions do not subvert the democratic rights (freedom of speech and expression) in Parliament and state legislatures. It does not violate conscience. It does not violate any right or freedom under Article 105 and 194 of the Constitution.
- Judges observed that Suspicion of bias on the Speaker’s role could not be ruled out on his or her election and tenure depend on the majority will of the House.
What did the Supreme Court rule in Hollohan?
- The majority judgement:
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 Schedule’s provisions were “salutory and intended to strengthen the fabric of Indian Parliamentary democracy by curbing unprincipled and unethical political defections.”
- Minority 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 and, therefore, he does not satisfy the requirement of such an independent adjudicatory authority.
An independent adjudicatory machinery for resolving disputes relating to the competence of Members of the House is envisaged as an attribute of the democratic system which is a basic feature of our Constitution… [the Speaker’s] choice as the sole arbiter in the matter violates an essential attribute of the basic feature.
G. Vishwanathan v. Speaker, Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly case
Members who have publicly expressed opposition to their party or support for another party were deemed to have resigned.
Ravi S Naik v. Union of India
In the absence of a formal resignation by the member, the giving up of membership can be inferred by his conduct.
Shrimanth Balasaheb Patil v. Hon’ble Speaker, Karnataka Legislative Assembly (2019), the Karnataka Case
MLA’s would not be bound by the whip of their respective in the trust vote.
The Supreme Court bench, in the 2020 case also made two other crucial observations which will be discussed more in the next two sections-
- It first spoke about the need for an external mechanism to decide cases of disqualification
- It also said that a Speaker/Chairman should decide cases of disqualification within three months and asked the Speaker of Manipur Legislative Assembly to decide the case within the next four weeks.
Manipur Assemble Case (Keisham Meghachandr Singh v. The Hon’ble Speaker Manipur Legislative Assemble & Ors. (2020)
Supreme Court recommended the Parliament to amend the Constitution regarding the role of Speaker as a quasi-judicial authority while dealing with disqualification petitions.