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    Anti-defection law: When toppling game begins, Speaker’s role becomes crucial

    Synopsis

    The Speaker’s role has come into prominence, once again, with Rajasthan assembly’s CP Joshi issuing a notice to Congress rebels Sachin Pilot and 18 other MLAs under the anti-defection law.

    The Speaker’s role has come into prominence, once again, with Rajasthan assembly’s CP Joshi issuing a notice to Congress rebels Sachin Pilot and 18 other MLAs under the anti-defection law.
    New Delhi: The Speaker’s role has come into prominence, once again, with Rajasthan assembly’s CP Joshi issuing a notice to Congress rebels Sachin Pilot and 18 other MLAs under the anti-defection law. Over the years, there have been several instances where the Speaker’s role became crucial as the Anti-defection law has bestowed the power of deciding on disqualifications with the presiding officer of the legislature.

    A few months ago, 22 Congress rebel MLAs, including six ministers, sent in their resignation to MP Speaker NP Prajapati. While these MLAs were kept in a resort in Bengaluru, Prajapati accepted their resignations only on March 20, just before the Supreme Court ordered a floor test. The Kamal Nath government fell soon. In July 2019, Karnataka assembly Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar disqualified 14 rebel MLAs, 11 from Congress and three from JDS, whose resignations were pending with him, leading to the collapse of the JDS-Congress government led by HD Kumaraswamy. The 17 MLAs were disqualified for the remaining term of the assembly and not allowed to contest polls till the term ended. However, they won a reprieve from the Supreme Court which while endorsing the Speaker’s disqualification allowed the defectors to contest the bypolls, which they did as BJP candidates. Many of those who won have been accommodated as ministers in the Yediyurappa government. In MP, the disqualified defectors have become ministers even before the bypolls. Like in Rajasthan now, BJP had denied having any role in luring away MLAs in Karnataka and MP too.

    In 2015-16 BJP engineered defections in Arunachal Pradesh and won over 21 of the 47 Congress MLAs in the 60 member assembly. BJP had only 11 MLAs and support of 2 Independents. On December 15, 2015, Speaker Nabam Rebia disqualified 14 of the rebel MLAs who belonged to the Kalikho Pul camp and were opposed chief minister Nabam Tuki. While the Gauhati High Court upheld the disqualification in January 2016, the matter when to the Supreme Court. The apex court refused to give a verdict on the disqualification but restored the Tuki government in July 2016. The Harish Rawat-led Congress government in Uttarakhand was similarly upstaged in 2016. Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal disqualified nine Congress rebel MLAs who had joined BJP. This was preceded by 25 BJP and the nine Congress rebel MLAs moving an impeachment motion against the Speaker. Kunjwal disqualified the nine rebels as they had voted against the Appropriations bill and defied the party whip. The Uttarakhand High Court had upheld the disqualification. When the matter went to the Supreme Court, it ordered a trust vote which led to Rawat’s government being restored in May, 2016.

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