SC to look into status of expelled legislators with regard to Tenth Schedule

Will the anti-defection law apply to MPs and MLAs expelled from their parties?

Twenty-one years ago, the Supreme Court concluded in G. Viswanathan versus Hon’ble Speaker, Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly that a legislator expelled from his party shall be deemed to have “voluntarily given up” his membership of that party which got him elected or nominated him to the House.

This legal fiction of deeming him to continue in the party post-election as an “unattached member” makes him therefore vulnerable to disqualification under the Tenth Schedule (anti-defection law) of the Constitution.

Vishwanathan judgement
Under the Viswanathan judgment, the expelled legislator would still be susceptible to the “whims and fancies” of the leaders of the party which threw him out despite the fact that subsequently, after his expulsion, he had gone ahead and formed his own political party.

In August 2016, the Supreme Court refrained from adjudicating the constitutional question in expelled Samajwadi Party leaders Amar Singh and Jaya Pradha’s case.

The court had then found the issue “infructuous” as both leaders had by that time completed their tenure in Parliament.

But Mr. Singh whose political career has come full circle with his re-induction into the Samajwadi Party and has a tenure in Parliament till July 2022, returned to the Supreme Court. He asked the court to take a second look at the question of status of an expelled legislator with regards to the Tenth Schedule and lay down the law.

Mr. Singh contended that the application of Tenth Schedule to an expelled legislator is in violation of the Basic Structure of the Constitution.

What has happened now?
Now a Supreme Court Bench has agreed to refer Mr. Singh’s petition to an “appropriate larger Bench”.

What is the controversyabout?
At the centre of the controversy is the Supreme Court’s interpretation of paragraph 2(1) of the Tenth Schedule in the Viswanathan judgment of 1996.

What has the court said?
The court held that even if a member was thrown out or expelled from the party, he would not cease to be a member of the political party that had set him up as a candidate for the election.

(Adapted from The Hindu)