Rajasthan Assembly Speaker C P Joshi
Rajasthan Assembly Speaker C P Joshi

The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to vacate the interim stay granted by the Rajasthan High Court till Friday, July 24, on any action by the Assembly Speaker C P Joshi against Sachin Pilot and 18 other MLAs supporting him. Protesting against the interim stay, Joshi had argued that as the Speaker he enjoys an absolute power to decide the matter of disqualification of members and no court can intervene. He pleaded that the show-cause notices to Pilot and others on a complaint by a Congress leader were merely to seek information as he had not taken any decision in this regard. However, given the claim of absolute power in deciding the fate of sitting MLAs, regardless of how the current battle of wits between Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his erstwhile deputy, Sachin Pilot, eventually ends, it may be time to amend the relevant law in order to insulate it from the partisanship of the presiding officers. In the UK, the Speaker of the House of Commons upon election severs ties with his former party and, as a result, enjoys bipartisan support. In fact, at election time neither party fields a candidate against him. In our case, the Speakers are widely known to act as agents of the ruling party. In the present case, the issuance of notices to Pilot and others was uncalled for because their decision to skip the meeting of the Congress legislative group did not anyway violate the anti-defection law. Internal power struggle in the ruling party does not call for the Speaker’s intervention. In this regard, the suggestion that the anti-defection law be amended so that it is enforced by a panel of retired High Court or Supreme Court judges on merits of each case, will be a welcome reform of the anti-defection law, but the political class is hardly likely to welcome the suggestion.

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