From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Nothing much
Mains level : Anti Defection
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.
- 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.
Identifying its weak aspects and strengthening the law may be the answer.