New Delhi, Jan 17 (IANS) Dubbing defections an evil, the Supreme Court Thursday held that any member of a political party can approach a state assembly's speaker to seek the disqualification of a party legislator who joins another outfit.
The "evil of political defection had become a matter of national concern and if it was not checked, it could very well undermine the very foundation of our democracy and the principles which sustain the same", the court said.
An apex court bench of Chief Justice Altamas Kabir, Justice J. Chelameswar and Justice Vikramajit Sen made the observation while upholding an Orissa High Court verdict that said that the head of a party whose legislator had switched to another party could seek the disqualification of such a member under the anti-defection law.
The court said that "the provisions of Sub-rules (1) and (2) of Rule 6 of the 1987 Rules have, therefore, to be read down to make it clear that not only a member of the house, but any person interested, would also be entitled to bring to the notice of the speaker the fact that a member of the house had incurred disqualification..."
In the instant case, Utkal Keshari Parida, Orissa unit president of the Nationalist Congress Party, filed four petitions seeking the disqualification of four members of his party in the legislature on account of their defection to the ruling Biju Janata Dal. The disqualification petitions were filed July 24, 2012.
Following a dealy, Parida moved the high court seeking direction to the speaker to decided the matter expeditiously.
While upholding the maintainability of Parida's petition, the high court held that "if any member of the house belonging to a political party had joined another political party, which is a disqualification under paragraph 2(1) of the Tenth Schedule, any person interested could make a reference to the speaker under Rule 6 of the 1987 Rules and it was not necessary that such a reference had to be made by a member of the legislative assembly".
Chief Justice Kabir said: "We are unable to agree with the interpretation of the provisions of Rule 6 of the 1987 Rules read with paragraph 2(1)(a) of the Tenth Schedule to the constitution on the question of locus standi of the respondent, as the president of the state unit of the party, to file the application seeking disqualification of the four members..."
"In such event, if the provisions of the Tenth Schedule are interpreted to exclude the right of any person interested to bring to the notice of the speaker of the house the fact that any or some of its members had incurred disqualification from the membership of the house on any of the eventualities indicated in paragraphs 2 and 4 therein, it would render the inclusion of the Tenth Schedule to the constitution otiose and defeat the objects and intent of the 52nd amendment of the constitution," the judgment said.
On receipt of such information, the speaker would be entitled to decide whether the member concerned had, in fact, incurred such disqualification and to pass appropriate orders on his findings, the court said.