Tamil Nadu

Disqualified legislators can contest bypolls, says CEC

O.P. Rawat

O.P. Rawat  

‘Defection disqualifies them only from holding the current elected office’

Chief Election Commissioner O.P. Rawat on Friday made it clear that under the anti-defection law, “there is no bar” on the 18 disqualified AIADMK legislators entering the fray as and when byelections are held.

Mr. Rawat made the clarification to The Hindu over the phone when asked whether the phrase “disqualified for being a member of the House,” as specified in the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, meant that the disqualified persons wouldn’t be able to contest the byelections for the remaining period of the existing House, which, in the context of Tamil Nadu, referred to the 15th Assembly.

On Thursday, the Madras High Court upheld the disqualification of the 18 persons owing allegiance to Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) founder T.T.V. Dhinakaran.

Pointing out that the 18 former legislators had suffered disqualification due to defection, Mr. Rawat explained that “this alone is not a bar. Defection disqualifies them from holding the current elected office and not from contesting elections in future.”

Period of bar

Naresh Gupta, former Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of Tamil Nadu, pointed out that when it came to other types of disqualification, the period of bar had been stipulated, whereas under the anti-defection law, no such period had been mentioned.

Satyabrata Sahoo, Tamil Nadu’s Chief Electoral Officer, said the Election Commission’s rules on qualifications and disqualifications of persons for contesting elections to Parliament and State legislature had no reference to those getting disqualified under the anti-defection law.

However, K. Chandru, former judge of the Madras High Court, argued that under the given case concerning Tamil Nadu, the term “House” referred to the current Assembly.

If the disqualified legislators were allowed to contest the byelections for the remaining term of the House, it would be tantamount to the Opposition’s tactic of staging a walkout from the House, he said.

On holding bypolls

As far as the issue of holding bypolls to the 18 Assembly constituencies was concerned, Mr. Rawat clarified that a decision could be taken, depending upon the outcome of the proceedings before the Supreme Court in the event of a Special Leave Petition being filed against the High Court’s judgment. “If no appeal is filed, our clock starts from the day the High Court delivered its verdict,” he added.

Earlier, Mr. Sahoo told journalists that he was in touch with the Election Commission in Delhi about the current developments, and was awaiting a signed copy of the judgment of the High Court in the case. “Once we get a signed copy, we will send it to the Election Commission,” he said.

‘EC to take final call’

Replying to a query, he said that election to a constituency was to be held within six months since it fell vacant. “The EC will take the final decision on elections,” he said.

To persistent queries on when bypolls would be held for the constituencies that were vacant, Mr. Sahoo said that the Election Commission would take a final call on the issue.

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2020 1:01:47 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/disqualified-legislators-can-contest-bypolls-says-cec/article25340017.ece

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