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Disqualification Of MLAs

Why is it in the news?

  • Recently, the Himachal Pradesh Assembly Speaker disqualified six MLAs of the ruling Congress under the anti-defection law (Tenth Schedule).
  • The disqualification was based on the MLAs defying the party whip during crucial voting sessions.

About Anti-Defection Law (Tenth Schedule)

  • The Tenth Schedule, introduced in 1985 through the 52nd constitutional amendment, contains provisions against defection.
  • It states that a member of a House who voluntarily gives up membership of their political party or votes against the party’s instructions faces disqualification.
  • The concept of a “whip” is crucial, wherein party instructions regarding voting must be followed.
  • However, the Tenth Schedule is not applicable to Rajya Sabha elections, as clarified by the Election Commission in 2017.
Cross-Voting in Rajya Sabha

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 The Rajya Sabha elections in the States of Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka witnessed cross-voting by MLAs belonging to different parties.

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 This has once again raised concerns about the sanctity of the election process.

Background

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Rajya Sabha representatives are elected indirectly by members of State Legislative Assemblies as per Article 80 of the Constitution.

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Historically, Rajya Sabha elections were largely uncontested until the June 1998 elections in Maharashtra, which saw cross-voting and resulted in the loss of a Congress party candidate.

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Until 1998, candidates nominated by parties according to their strength in the Assembly were usually elected unopposed.

Amendment to Electoral Laws

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 In 2003, an amendment to the Representation of the People Act, 1951 introduced the open ballot system for Rajya Sabha elections.

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Under this system, MLAs of political parties must show their ballot paper to the authorized party agent. However, the independent MLAs are prohibited from showing their ballots to anyone.

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 The amendment aimed to curb instances of cross-voting by ensuring transparency in the voting process.

Court Rulings

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 The Supreme Court, in the case of Kuldip Nayar versus Union of India (2006), upheld the open ballot system for Rajya Sabha elections, emphasizing transparency.

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 The court ruled that voting against the party’s candidate does not lead to disqualification under the Tenth Schedule but may result in disciplinary action.

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 The conduct of a member both inside and outside the House is considered for defection, as ruled in cases like Ravi S. Naik and Sanjay Bandekar versus Union of India (1994).

Way Forward

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Uphold Principles of Free and Fair Elections: Prioritize the maintenance of free and fair electoral processes, emphasizing transparency and integrity in all aspects of voting, including Rajya Sabha elections.

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Address Challenges of Cross-Voting: Acknowledge the detrimental impact of cross-voting on the electoral system’s integrity and effectiveness, necessitating proactive measures to mitigate such practices.

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Explore Legal Remedies: Consider legal avenues, such as suo moto Public Interest Litigation (PIL), to address the issue of cross-voting in Rajya Sabha elections, reflecting a commitment to upholding democratic values.

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Promote Party Loyalty and Accountability: Encourage adherence to party discipline and loyalty among elected representatives, fostering accountability and discouraging opportunistic voting practices that undermine democratic principles.

 

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