Indicating the need for a rethink, the Supreme Court has asked Parliament to reconsider if the Speaker should continue to decide disqualification petitions of legislators under the anti-defection law. A time has come when Parliament should 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”, the top court had said. The court also asked for an independent mechanism to decide such cases, besides fixing a time limit of three months. The fractured nature of mandates has given rise to coalition politics, where disagreements arise between alliance partners. The quest for power along with money and muscle makes governments an unseemly spectacle, jeopardising political stability. That political stability is paramount has never been in doubt, more so when it is cobbled on the basis of shared beliefs. While the issue concerns their jurisdiction, charges of misuse of authority have always put presiding officers under a cloud. Kesari Nath Tripathi as the UP Speaker proved to be controversial after the BSP split in 2003. Somnath Chatterjee faced flak from his own party, the CPM, after he refused to quit as Speaker on the Indo-US civil nuclear deal during UPA-I. The absence of a whip allowed him to continue, though he was expelled by the party. The interpretation of the law has also been challenged, when in the absence of a formal resignation, defection gets inferred by conduct – through ‘anti-party’ activities. Parliament may seriously consider amending the Constitution to substitute the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and Legislative Assemblies as arbiter of disputes concerning disqualification which arise under the Tenth Schedule with a permanent Tribunal headed by a retired Supreme Court Judge or a retired Chief Justice of a High Court, or some other outside independent mechanism to ensure that such disputes are decided both swiftly and impartially, thus giving real teeth to the provisions contained in the Tenth Schedule, which are so vital in the proper functioning of our democracy,” it said.
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