Speaker does not have power to indicate period of disqualification: SC
A bench of Justices N V Ramana, Sanjiv Khanna and Krishna Murari was referring to the then Karnataka Assembly Speaker R Ramesh Kumar's decision to disqualify 17 legislators till the end of the current 15th Legislative Assembly's term in 2023.
The lawmakers were disqualified and barred from contesting any election to the current Assembly which included by-election to be held for 15 seats in the state.
While the court upheld their disqualification, it said, "it is clear that the Speaker, in exercise of his powers under the Tenth Schedule, does not have the power to either indicate the period for which a person is disqualified, nor to bar someone from contesting elections".
It also said, "We must be careful to remember that the desirability of a particular rule or law, should not in any event be confused with the question of existence of the same, and constitutional morality should never be replaced by political morality, in deciding what the Constitution mandates".
The bench further observed that since neither the Constitution nor any other legislation states that defection is a bar to contest elections, such a prohibition cannot be read into the "nebulous concept" of inherent powers of the speaker.
Doing so would be "impermissible and invalid", the bench said, adding that "constitutional silences cannot be used to introduce changes of such nature".
Having ascertained the ambit of the speaker's power, the court said: "the only regret this bench has, is with respect to the conduct and the manner in which all the constitutional functionaries have acted in the current scenario."
The apex court further said: "Being a constitutional functionary, the Constitution requires them and their actions to uphold constitutionalism and constitutional morality.
"In this regard, a functionary is expected to not be vacillated by the prevailing political morality and pressures. In order to uphold the Constitution, we need to have men and women who will make a good Constitution such as ours, better."
The apex court said the role of the speaker was critical in maintaining the balance between democratic values and constitutional considerations, but "there is a growing trend of Speakers acting against the constitutional duty of being neutral".
The constitutional responsibility endowed upon the Speaker has to be scrupulously followed and his political affiliations cannot come in the way of adjudication, the apex court said.
Additionally, political parties are indulging in horse trading and corrupt practices, due to which the citizens are denied of stable governments, it added.
"In these circumstances, the Parliament is required to reconsider strengthening certain aspects of the Tenth Schedule, so that such undemocratic practices are discouraged," the bench said.