Speaker’s power in a rebellion

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Speaker’s power in a rebellion

In the wake of recent political crisis in Maharashtra, Supreme Court issued an interim order that undermines the powers of the Speaker under the 10th Schedule of the Constitution.

Interim Order:

  • Grants more time to rebel MLAs to reply to the disqualification notice served on them.
  • Seeks affidavits from them, and a counter-affidavit from the Deputy Speaker on his removal as demanded by the rebels.
  • Impact:
  • Delayed the disqualification proceedings
  • Impact the trust vote in assembly
  • Raises questions on the sanctity of the Tenth Schedule

10th Schedule:

  • Also known as Anti-defection law, 1985
  • Empowers the Speaker of the House to disqualify legislators who ‘defect’ from the party.

SC on Speaker’s Powers

Kihoto Hollohan v Zachillhu case, 1992- SC upheld the power vested in the Speaker <br>- Only the final order of the Speaker will be subject to judicial review.<br>- Refrained from interfering with the process itself.
SC Ruling of 2016- Barred Speaker from acting under 10th Schedule if his own removal is pending.
Nabam Rebia v Bemang Felix case- SC limited Speaker’s powers<br>- Constitutionally impermissible for a speaker to proceed with disqualification proceedings, if a no-confidence motion against him is pending.
  • Impact:
  • Gave a window to defecting legislators to stall or circumvent the Tenth Schedule by seeking removal of the Speaker when disqualification proceedings are anticipated
  • Effectively tied the hands of the Speaker.

Previous instances of Legal routes:

  • In 2016, rebel MLAs of Congress sought removal of Uttarakhand Assembly Speaker after shifting to BJP to stall anti-defection proceedings.
  • In 2018, AIADMK legislator S Karunas sent a notice seeking removal of Speaker of Tamil Nadu assembly when the AIADMK was mulling action against him.
  • In June 2020, the Congress in Manipur served a notice for the removal of Speaker as nine of its MLAs defected to the BJP.

Removal of Speaker:

  • Article 179: Speaker can be removed by a resolution of the Assembly passed by a majority of “all the then members of the Assembly”.
  • Begins with notice of at least 14 days.