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Judicial intervention should strengthen anti-defection law, not undermine it

strengthen anti-defection law, not undermine it

Time is of the essence when it comes to executing political manoeuvres to reduce a government to a minority. Dissident legislators need time to gather enough numbers to vote out the regime. Ruling parties need to close the window of opportunity soon, often using the threat of disqualification for defection. It is in this backdrop that judicial intervention in matters relating to disqualifying lawmakers for defection takes place — either buying the dissidents time or allowing disqualification proceedings to go on unhindered. By its order granting time until July 12 to dissident Shiv Sena legislators in the Maharashtra Assembly to reply to the Deputy Speaker’s notice under the anti-defection law, the Supreme Court has effectively made it possible for them to actualise their objective without the threat of disqualification for now. It is doubtful whether the Court should have done this in the face of a specific bar on judicial intervention in disqualification proceedings at any stage prior to final adjudication unde the Tenth Schedule. In 1992 ( Kihoto Hollohan vs Zachillhu), a Constitution Bench, while upholding the validity of the anti-rdefection law, held that the Speaker’s decision was subject to judicial review, albeit on limited grounds. It also made it clear that this should take place after a final decision, and there can be no interim order, except if there is an interim disqualification or suspension.

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