SC suggests independent body on MP/MLA disqualification

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday suggested that Parliament revisit the rationale in giving exclusive powers to the Speaker in deciding disqualification petitions.

The observation gains significance in the backdrop of Karnataka MLAs’ disqualification case decided by the top court last year.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice R.F. Nariman, insisting on introducing more fairness in the procedure, held that Parliament could possibly create an independent and permanent body to decide the disqualification petitions against MPs and MLAs, instead of the Speaker having the exclusive powers.

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The top court’s observation came in a case of disqualification of Forest and Environment Minister Thounaojam Shyamkumar in Manipur. Shyamkumar had won on a ticket from Congress but switched to the BJP-led government in the state.

In the verdict, the top court held that the Speaker can’t sit on a disqualification petition indefinitely. The court emphasized that it is essential for the Speaker to decide on the matter within a reasonable time period, and recommended the disqualification petitions should be decided within three months.

The bench said the independence of the Speaker has been raised many times and put forth a query: should the Speaker be the sole person entrusted with decisions on disqualification petitions, especially when he/she is also a member of a political party?

The court said the elected Members of Parliament or the legislative assemblies should not be allowed to continue if they have been disqualified on issues such as anti-defection.

In the Manipur case, the top court asked the Speaker to decide disqualification petitions within 4 weeks. The court also observed that in the absence of the decision, the MLAs could come back to the court.

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