The Supreme Court’s verdict on Wednesday reinstalled Congress government in Arunachal Pradesh and unseated the BJP-supported Kalikho Pul government. Pul whom Congress expelled for anti-party activities in April 2015 got BJP’s support and became chief minister in February.
Former Himachal Pradesh governor and retired high court judge Justice Vishnu Sadashiv Kokje talks about issues at stake. Excerpts of interview.
The two-and-a-half-year-old political drama in Arunachal which ended with the apex court’s verdict raised questions about Governor and assembly speaker’s role. What went wrong?
It is true that Governor cannot prepone the assembly session or decide place where the assembly is to be convened. But court should have first decided whether the Speaker’s order to disqualify 14 rebel (Congress) MLAs in Arunachal Pradesh assembly was correct. If this was decided, then picture would have been clear that which political party was in majority.
Secondly, you have to have some stop-gap arrangement or court’s interim order that earlier dispensation should continue till things are settled.
Where lies the problem?
Basic problem is 10th Schedule of the Constitution, referred to as anti-defection law. With 10th Schedule the horse-trading, which was earlier done openly, is now done surreptitiously. The price of horse trading has also increased. The disqualified MLA wants to ensure that he gets expenses (money from the party luring him) for fighting another election.
Then, political party has not been defined by Indian Constitution so far. It needs to be defined. There was reference to political party for the first time in the Constitution when 10th Schedule was enforced in 1985. Political parties are not regulated by any law.
There is no internal democracy, two to three people call shots in political parties and all MPs, MLAs obey without questioning them.
A person gets elected as MP or MLA on his individual qualification. He loses his MLA post because of individual disqualification. His party doesn’t come into picture then. If an MLA or MP disobeys the party whip, he is disqualified. But who will issue the whip and under what circumstances are not regulated by law.
What is the remedy?
The right to disqualify MLAs should rest either with Election Commission or court. It is not Speaker’s job. Speaker did not have this right before 10th Schedule came into force. State assemblies and Parliament should run throughout the year like government office, schools or colleges so that every MP, MLA gets chance to express views. The limited sessions worked when population was less, constituencies were small.