Published on: 30 August 2023 at 12:30 IST
A public interest litigation (PIL) has been submitted to the Bombay High Court challenging the safeguard against disqualification provided by the anti-defection law to lawmakers in the event of their political party merging with another political entity [Meenakshi Menon v. Union of India & Ors.].
Filed by Meenakshi Menon, the PIL seeks a declaration that paragraph 4 of the tenth schedule of the Constitution be invalidated as it grants exemption from disqualification on the grounds of defection when parties merge.
The petitioner also calls for directives to prevent defecting legislators from partaking in legislative proceedings or assuming any constitutional positions until their disqualification is conclusively determined by the courts.
The bench instructed the petitioner’s counsel to rectify any deficiencies in the plea before resubmitting the matter for mention.
Menon’s plea contends that the existing form of the anti-defection law has disregarded the rights of voters who cast their ballots for a specific candidate affiliated with a particular political party based on its manifesto.
“In case of split and merger with any other political party (as permissible under the present law), the voter is taken for granted. The voters have no recourse in law to take action against the legislator who is part of the group that has decided to split and merge with any other political party. To ensure accountability of the elected representatives, it is expedient and necessary that the provision providing for split and merger may be declared ultra vires to the constitution,” the petition argues.
Furthermore, Menon asserts that the law does not specify a deadline for concluding disqualification proceedings against a legislator.
The petition highlights that due to the growing politicization of the speaker’s role in the legislative house, disqualification petitions against members are either indefinitely pending or rapidly resolved.
Menon contends that since the enactment of paragraph 4, some legislators and parties have exploited legal loopholes.
“There was evidence that the law did not fulfil the purpose of bringing a halt to political defection and legitimized mass defection by exempting from its provisions acts that it termed splits,” the petition underscores.