Karnataka: Supreme Court upholds disqualification of 17 rebel MLAs, can contest bypolls

5 min read

News:The Supreme Court(SC) has upheld an order by former Karnataka Assembly Speaker disqualifying 17 Karnataka MLAs.However,the court has allowed all the disqualified MLAs to contest in the upcoming bypolls.

Facts:

Background:

  • Karnataka Assembly Speaker had disqualified 17 MLAs under the tenth schedule of the Constitution(anti defection law).
  • The disqualification had barred the legislators from contesting Assembly polls for the term of the current Assembly which ends in 2023.
  • However,the Supreme Court upheld the disqualification of the dissident legislators but it also held that their ouster does not put any bar upon them from contesting by-polls.
  • The court said that the speaker acts as a quasi-judicial authority and that the scope of the assembly speaker’s inquiry is limited to examine whether the resignation of MLAs was voluntary or not.
  • It said that even the 91st Amendment Act,2003 which did not allow a disqualified member to be appointed as a minister,did not give Speaker the power to put a ban upon them to contest elections till the end of the term.

Additional information:

About Anti-Defection law:

  • The Anti-defection law is contained in the 10th Schedule of the Constitution.It was enacted by Parliament in 1985.
  • The purpose of the anti-defection law is to curb political defection by the legislators.The law applies to both Parliament and state assemblies.
  • It lays down the process by which legislators may be disqualified on grounds of defection by the Presiding Officer of a legislature based on a petition by any other member of the House.
  • However,the law does not specify a timeframe for Speakers to decide on defection proceedings.

Grounds for Disqualification:The grounds on which a member of a legislature can be disqualified are:

  • if he/she voluntarily gives up the membership of his/her party 
  • if a legislator votes in the House against the direction of his/her party and his/her actions are not condoned by his party.
  • If an independent candidate joins a political party after the election. 
  • If a nominated member joins a party six months after he becomes a member of the legislature.

Exception:

  • There is an exception that has been provided in the law to protect the legislators from disqualification.
  • The 10th Schedule says that if there is a merger between two political parties and two-thirds of the members of a legislature party agree to the merger, they will not be disqualified.

Judicial Review:

  • In Kihoto Hollohan vs Zachillhu and Others (1991),the Supreme Court Constitution Bench had declared that the Speaker’s decision was subject to judicial review.
  • The Speaker of the House also does not have the power to review his own decisions to disqualify a candidate.Such power is not provided for under the Schedule and is not implicit in the provisions either.