Legislative Council in States: Issues & Way Forward

[op-ed snap] Disqualified, yet qualified: On Karnataka rebel MLAs

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Anti Defection

Context

While upholding the Karnataka Speaker’s orders disqualifying 17 defectors this year, the Supreme Court has allowed the former legislators to contest the by-elections to Assembly seats. 

Karnataka scene – What happened in the past

    • Most of them had tried to resign from their respective parties in July. It was seen as a ploy to bring down the JD(S)-Congress regime of H.D. Kumaraswamy. 
    • The suspicion was that they would get ministerial positions as soon as BJP formed a BJP government. The then Speaker kept them at bay for days by refusing to act on their resignations. 
    • Ultimately, he disqualified all of them and said the disqualification would go on till 2023 — the end of the current Assembly’s term. 
    • The Speaker’s stance was quite controversial as it created a conflict between resignation and disqualification. 
    • Now, his argument that resignation could not be an excuse to evade a disqualification has been accepted. 
    • The Speaker was also hoping to keep the defectors out of any alternative regime as members disqualified for defection are barred from becoming ministers until they get re-elected.

What happens now

    • The former Janata Dal (S) and Congress MLAs are free to contest the polls.
    • They may reap the benefits of their crossover by getting a ticket from the ruling BJP.

Welcome move

    • On the one hand, resignation does not take away the effect of a prior act that amounts to disqualification. 
    • On the other, Speakers are not given a free pass to sit on resignation letters indefinitely. 
    • Under Article 190(3), a provision under which the Speaker has to ascertain the “voluntary” and “genuine” nature of a resignation before accepting it, the court is clear that it is a limited inquiry to see if the letter is authentic and if the intent to quit is based on free will. 
    • Once it is demonstrated that a member is willing to resign out of his free will, the Speaker has no option but to accept the resignation, the court said.
    • This ends the argument that the Speaker is empowered to consider the motives and circumstances whenever a resignation is submitted. 
    • The verdict bemoans the fact that Speakers tend not to be neutral, and that change of loyalty for the lure of office continues despite the anti-defection law. 

Conclusion

Identifying its weak aspects and strengthening the law may be the answer.

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