UPSC Law Optional 2020 & 2021 : Authority of the Speaker is Questioned

SUPREME COURT OF INDIA : MEGHACHANDRA SINGH VS. THE HON’BLE SPEAKER MANIPUR LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY & ORS.




INTRODUCTION :

1. The Parliament should replace the Speaker with a “permanent tribunal” or external mechanism to render quick and impartial decisions on questions of defection.

2. It recommended that Parliament should rethink as to whether disqualification petitions ought to be entrusted to a Speaker as a quasi-judicial authority when such a Speaker continues to belong to a particular political party either de jure or de facto.


WHY ? The Speaker being an authority within the House and his tenure being dependent on the will of the majority therein, likelihood of suspicion of bias could not be ruled out.


WHAT CAN BE DONE : Supreme court of India asked why disqualification proceedings under the Tenth Schedule (anti-defection law)[1] should be kept in-house and not be given to an “outside” authority. Even the final authority for removal of a judge is outside the judiciary and in Parliament, it reasoned.


EARLIER JUDGMENT OF SUPREME COURT : Nabam Rebia and Bamang Felix v. Deputy Speaker, Arunachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly (2016) 8 SCC 1, which states that the Speaker has exclusive jurisdiction to decide disqualification questions that are referred to him.


NOW, THIS SETUP SEEMS TO BE VIOLATION OF NATURAL JUSTICE :

a) Rule of law has in it firmly entrenched, natural justice, of which, rule against bias is a necessary concomitant; and basic postulates of rule against bias are: nemo judex in causa sua ‘A Judge is disqualified from determining any case in which he may be, or may fairly be suspected to be, biased’; and ‘it is of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.’

b) This appears to be the underlying principle adopted by the framers of the Constitution in not designating the Speaker as the authority to decide election disputes and questions as to disqualification of members under Articles 103, 192 and 329 and opting for an independent authority outside the House.


NOTE OF CAUTION OF JUDGES IN THE PAST ON THE AUTHORITY OF SPEAKER & JUDICIAL REVIEW :

1. Kihoto Hollohan : Verma, J.

In the Tenth Schedule, the Speaker is made not only the sole but the final arbiter of such dispute with no provision for any appeal or revision against the Speaker's decision to any independent outside authority. This departure in the Tenth Schedule is a reverse trend and violates a basic feature of the Constitution since the Speaker cannot be treated as an authority contemplated for being entrusted with this function by the basic postulates of the Constitution, notwithstanding the great dignity attaching to that office with the attribute of impartiality


2. In Rajendra Singh Rana, (2007), in which the Uttar Pradesh Speaker’s order refusing to disqualify 13 BSP defectors was set aside on the ground that he had failed to exercise his jurisdiction to decide whether they had attracted disqualification, while recognising a ‘split’ in the legislature party. As “failure to exercise jurisdiction” is a recognised stage at which the court can now intervene, the court has thus opened a window for judicial intervention in cases in which Speakers refuse to act.


3. In 2016 in S.A. Sampath Kumar vs. Kale Yadaiah affirmed the landmark judgment in Kihoto Hollohan (1992) which upheld the validity of the Constitution’s Tenth Schedule, or the anti-defection law. This verdict had also made the Speaker’s order subject to judicial review on limited grounds. It made it clear that the court’s jurisdiction would not come into play unless the Speaker passes an order, leaving no room for intervention prior to adjudication.


4. In a 109-page judgment by a three-judge Bench led by Justice N.V. Ramana in the Karnataka MLAs’ disqualification case (November 2019), the court had held that a Speaker who cannot stay aloof from the pressures and wishes of his political party does not deserve to occupy his chair.


“There is a growing trend of the Speaker acting against the constitutional duty of being neutral. Further, horse-trading and corrupt practices associated with defection and change of loyalty for lure of office or wrong reasons have not abated. Thereby the citizens are denied stable governments. In these circumstances, there is need to consider strengthening certain aspects, so that such undemocratic practices are discouraged and checked,” Justice Ramana wrote.

Mala fide, perversity, violation of the constitutional mandate and order passed in violation of natural justice are grounds for Judicial review, as held in this case.

[1] The anti-defection law was enacted in 1985 to weed out corruption and money power from politics.

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