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Opinion

SC issues notice on declaration to bar rogue lawmakers from contesting elections

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On Thursday, the Supreme Court issued a notice to the Center and the Electoral Commission to examine whether lawmakers who resign to overthrow an elected government and then join the rival political faction to attract ministerial posts should be disqualified under the Tenth Annex of the Constitution.

A bench of three judges headed by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India (CJI) SA Bobde issued a notice on a petition filed by Jaya Thakur, a social activist from Madhya Pradesh, who demanded that a six-year ban be imposed on those Political renegades in light of the recent trend that emerged in the states of Madhya Pradesh as recently as March 2020 and Karnataka in 2019.

Thakur, in his petition presented through lawyer Varinder Kumar Sharma said: “The purpose of the Tenth Program (inserted in the Constitution in 1985) was to curb the evil of political desertions motivated by the temptation of an office or other similar consideration that puts the foundations of our democracy are in danger. The evil of political defection has been a matter of national concern. Therefore, the time has come for a defector to be disbarred for a period of six years, so the corrupt practice should be discouraged. ”

The petition also required that anyone who resigned from party membership be barred from holding any ministerial or other paid political office until the House term expires. “Politicians, including political parties, find a new way to defeat the Tenth Program motive by resigning from an elected office and choosing to join the ruling party and occupy a ministerial position or any other public office by contesting by-elections within the six months the cost of the public treasury. It is necessary to prohibit this type of person for up to six years from participating in elections and prohibit them from holding public office, ”the petition says.

The petition cited the recent example of Madhya Pradesh, where 22 rebel members of the State Assembly from Congress resigned to overthrow the Kamal Nath government in the state. Later, they contested the by-elections and were re-elected from the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). Some of them joined as ministers in the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government.

The petition also gave the example of Karnataka, where 10 of the 17 members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) in the state resigned or were disqualified for anti-party activities in 2019. Later, upon his re-election, the government of BS Yeddyurappa awarded him posts. ministerial to 10 of those MLAs.

Leading defender Anoop G Chaudhary, who defended Thakur, told the Court: “Parliamentarians and parliamentarians who dispute the elections at the expense of the public purse cannot resign for personal gain with ulterior motives. They are defeating the law established by Parliament in the Tenth Annex, later confirmed by the Supreme Court in the Kihoti Hollohan case of 1992 ”.

The Tenth Schedule sets out the process by which legislators can be disqualified for desertion by the President of a legislature based on a request from any other member of the House. A legislator is considered to have defected if he voluntarily renounces his party membership or if he disobeys the party whip by voting.

The court, also composed of judges AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, agreed to issue a notification about the petition to both the Center and the Electoral Commission. Since a petition raising a similar issue is already pending before the Court in a case entitled Lok Prahari v Union of India, the Court labeled Thakur’s petition to be heard together with that case. Chaudhary asked the court for an early date citing elections in several states, but the court declined to set a date.

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