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Time to review defection law: RS Deputy Chairman

Jaipur, Feb 29 (IANS) Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh here on Saturday called for reviewing and strengthening the anti-defection law, and said till the time any other arrangement was defined, the Speaker was the best forum to take decisions on disqualification petitions under the anti-defection law.

Addressing members of the Rajasthan Assembly at a workshop on the role of Speaker under the 10th Schedule of the Constitution, Harivansh said the Speaker was the best guard in the parliamentary democratic system.

The 10th Schedule defines a process under which legislators can be disqualified on the grounds of defection by the presiding officer of a legislature.

The Deputy Chairman’s views came in the reference to a recent Supreme Court order that said Parliament should rethink if the disqualification petitions could be entrusted to a Speaker in form of a quasi-judicial authority when he/she belonged to a political party.

He said the recent court decisions indicated that the Speaker should stay away from such tasks and thus it was necessary to discuss it.

Stating that change of party affiliations has always been a major issue in the Indian democracy, Harivansh said due to that a law was brought by amending the Constitution.

He said 35 years had passed since the defection law came into force, its impact couldn’t be seen anywhere. The law failed to check defections in many states and thus it was necessary to question its relevance, he said.

This law was discussed in detail in the Lok Sabha twice, first in 1967 and then in 1973.

The switching of party between 1965 and 1985 had a profound impact on the country’s politics, and had a direct impact on the development, he said and added, it was the time when the concept of Global Village was coming up with technological development in the world.

There were around 2,000 defections between 1967 and 1972. It, perhaps, forced lawmakers to add the 10th Schedule to the Constitution, Harivansh said.

He suggested several measures in the anti-defection law, like resignation of defectors and holding of fresh elections, stopping ministerial berths or any office of profit to them if they get re-elected, not counting defector’s vote in the formation and fall of government and sending Speakers to the Upper House if they were unwilling to contest polls after the end of term.

Rajasthan Speaker C.P. Joshi said it was the Speaker’s job to run the House. Many decisions by the Speaker, after the institution of anti-defection law, were not good for parliamentary setup. Now the Supreme Court had raised the concern that the Speaker enjoyed quasi judicial power and it should be given to a tribunal, Joshi said.

Terming defection as a major problem of the democratic system, Leader of Opposition Gulab Chand Kataria said the solution did emerge in the form of law, but problems had been coming up in this or that form. “Work needs to be done to enrich the democratic tradition by strengthening the law,” he said.

–IANS

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