Legislator facing disqualification can’t attend floor test: Supreme Court

It would amount to ‘legitimising’ a ‘constitutional sin’, says Chief Justice of India

February 28, 2023 10:50 pm | Updated March 01, 2023 03:18 am IST - NEW DELHI

A view of the Supreme Court of India, in New Delhi. File

A view of the Supreme Court of India, in New Delhi. File | Photo Credit: The Hindu

Allowing an MP or an MLA who is facing disqualification under the anti-defection law to participate in a floor test caused by his own doings will defeat the very purpose of Tenth Schedule, Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud, heading a Constitution Bench, said.

Permitting a legislator, whose actions caused a split in the party and who is liable to be disqualified for defection, to attend a trust vote would amount to “legitimising” a “constitutional sin”, Chief Justice Chandrachud addressed Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’ side, led by senior advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul.

“One the one hand, you have the Tenth Schedule, which is to prevent the constitutional sin of defection. On the one hand, you say somebody who defects, causes a split within the party, is liable to be disqualified… At the same time, you say that even if that person is liable to be disqualified, in the meantime, he can participate in the trust vote in the House…” Chief Justice Chandrachud observed to Mr. Kaul.

‘Product of his actions’

The court asked whether a legislator who is the very reason for unsettling the ruling government can benefit from a subsequent floor test, which is the product of his actions.

“If the antecedent reasons for a floor test is based on the violation of the proscriptions in the Tenth Schedule, then holding the floor test will defeat the very basis and purpose of the Tenth Schedule… You are legitimising a defection which is otherwise not permissible under the Tenth Schedule,” Chief Justice Chandrachud noted.

The court is hearing the dispute between Mr. Shinde and former Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. The rebellion of Mr. Shinde and his camp legislators had led to the fall of the Thackeray government in 2022. Disqualification proceedings against Mr. Shinde and his faction under the Tenth Schedule are still pending before the Maharashtra Assembly Speaker.

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