Congress considers anti-defection law against Sachin Pilot, experts weigh in
The Congress has taken a wider view of the anti-defection law inked under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution in its bid to disqualify the ousted Rajasthan deputy CM Sachin Pilot from the assembly.
Congress leaders involved in the strategy maintained that Pilot’s conduct, statement of his close aides and his absence from two meetings of the Congress legislature party in Rajasthan make a strong case against him.
But a section of constitutional experts also feels that Pilot may take a legal route and even seek removal of CP Joshi as the Rajasthan assembly speaker to buy more. While the Congress aims to remove team Pilot to command a stronger foothold in the Rajasthan assembly, Pilot may aim to complete his term in the House and continue to prick the ruling party.
The Tenth Schedule says that a lawmaker can be disqualified from the House “if he has voluntarily given up his membership of such political party” or “if he votes or abstains from voting in such House contrary to any direction issued by the political party to which he belongs or by any person or authority authorised by it in this behalf without obtaining prior permission of such political party.”
Two Congress leaders involved in the strategy argued that it is a conservative view to look at what is happening inside the House. “An elected lawmaker’s conduct, his speeches, his hobnobbing with rivals too can be counted as ground for disqualification,” said a senior party leader.
“He skipped two meetings of Congress legislature party, his loyalists gave three interviews demanding trust vote is proof of his intention. There are several examples of how the Supreme Court considered such an issue in the Ravi Nayak and the BS Yeddiyurappa case,” said another leader.
But P Sreedharan, former secretary general of the Lok Sabha, thinks otherwise. “Disqualification on ground of defection is mentioned clearly in the para 2 of the Tenth Schedule: If he has voluntarily given up his membership or if he votes against the party or abstains from voting. The issue of not following the direction of the party is connected to the House only. So any whip issued for non-House activities can’t be a sufficient ground,” said Sreedharan.
For Rajasthan assembly speaker CP Joshi, too, these are testing times. In the recent past, Joshi had advocated that speaker’s powers vis-a-vis the Tenth Schedule should be curtailed and the decision to expel a member should be given to political parties.
In two conferences of presiding officers, he spearheaded the campaign to de-link speakers from the anti-defection issues as he felt that speakers come under unnecessary political pressure and courts have often tarnished the image of the speakers in their judgments on defection issues. But now, Joshi himself has a high-profile defection issue — the first in 2020 — on his table.