Shouldn’t Speakers be Neutral?

March 7, 2023

Houses of Parliament and State legislatures – and even municipal corporations - are in turmoil as reflected in the two views projected recently in the public domain - which seem like pot calling the kettle black.

How can court deal with partisan acts by assembly speakers, asks SC bench

Faced with frequent petitions accusing Speakers of partisan activities, the Supreme Court on March 1, 2023) wondered as to how the courts would deal with situations arising from actions and inactions of Speakers in deciding or keeping pending petitions for disqualification of MLAs to allow political events to overtake the outcome of adjudication, leading to toppling of elected governments.

Hearing arguments for the fourth day on the issues linked to the upheaval in Sena resulting in toppling of the MVA government and swearing-in of the Shinde-led government in Maharashtra, a bench of CJI D Y Chandrachud, M R Shah, Krishna Murari, Hima Kohli and P S Narasimha flagged the court's concerns, expressed repeatedly in earlier judgments, about the Speaker's alleged unconstitutional actions in deciding petitions for disqualification of MLAs under the 10th Schedule of the Constitution.

"How should the SC deal with such situations which arise from time to time? The disqualification petitions are kept pending on one pretext or the other. The Speakers do not decide. Ultimately, the events overtake the decision on the disqualification petitions and governments get toppled," it said.

In the 2019 Srimant B Patil judgment, the Justice NV Ramana-led three-judge bench had expressed grave concern about the partisan role played by Speakers. It had said, "There is a growing trend of Speakers acting against the constitutional duty of being neutral. Additionally, parties are indulging in horse-trading and corrupt practices, due to which citizens are denied stable governments. In these circumstances, Parliament is required to re-consider strengthening certain aspects of the Tenth Schedule, so that such undemocratic practices are discouraged."

Dhankhar expresses disappointment over disruptions in Parliament

In the second outburst on the subject, Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar on March 1, 2023 expressed disappointment over fights, disruptions and protests during Parliament sessions. He was speaking at an event to mark the birth centenary of educationist M S Ramaiah, founder of Gokula Education Foundation.

“Lakhs and crores of rupees are spent for every minute of the session in Rajya Sabha. With disruptions, you cannot control the government system,” Dhankhar, also the chairperson of the Upper House (Rajya Sabha), said. He said Parliament was a platform to hold the government and the executive accountable. “We don’t want our boys and girls to follow the disruption in Parliament. We don’t want them to appreciate shouting of slogans and showing of placards,” he said. He appealed to students to influence public opinion in this regard and to use every medium available to persuade Parliamentarians that “in the temple of democracy, our conduct must make us proud. Our conduct must be for the development of the country.”

The subject is open to many views. What are yours? Your response is welcome in the format given below (Pl. scroll down a bit). Once again welcome to reason.



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By John B Monteiro
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