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Will Somnath defy global custom?

india Updated: Jul 21, 2008 02:39 IST
Prasad Nichenametla
Prasad Nichenametla
Hindustan Times
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As the Hindustan Times reported on Friday, Chatterjee has told people close to him that he would vote as a CPM member against the Prime Minister’s confidence motion if the numbers in the division over the trust vote are equal and he is called upon to exercise his casting vote.

<b1>Constitutional experts suggest that if his vote brings down the government, Chatterjee, who turns 79 three days after the trust vote, would be defying parliamentary convention and probably become the first speaker to bring down a national government anywhere in the world.

“The procedures and conventions laid down in the parliamentary democracies like UK make it clear that the Speaker, in case of a tie, would vote in such a way that it would maintain the status quo not leading to any change in the situation already existing,” said Subhash Kashyap, constitutional expert and former Lok Sabha Secretary General.

A senior official at the Lok Sabha Secretariat agreed, pointing to the handbook on parliamentary procedures that seeks to educate MPs on parliamentary procedures and conventions says.

“He (Speaker) almost always votes in such a way as to maintain the status quo or to postpone the settlement of the question,” says the handbook.

It also says the Speaker has the option to explain his reasons for taking the side in whose favour he votes but he is not bound to give such reasons.

It would be a breach of status quo if the government collapses because of the casting vote, added Kashyap. “According to the convention, the Speaker cannot be a party to a substantive change in the existing situation and his vote should be in such a way to ensure a continued debate in Parliament,” said explained former additional solicitor general and Congress working Committee member D.N. Dwivedi said. The idea of maintaining status quo is that the Speaker’s vote should not decide the motion but give the House the opportunity for further debate.