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Principle of accountability-two judgments

This article discusses two significant judgments for Principle of accountability delivered by the Supreme Court. It reveals conflicting interpretations of constitutional principles. The first case focuses on the control of civil services in the Delhi government, while the second case delves into the power dynamics within the Maharashtra government following a split in the Shiv Sena party. (Source: The Hindu :18th May,2023)

‘The judges had no choice but to make such contradictory conclusions’

principle of accountability

What is the context?

Two Constitution Benches of the Supreme Court delivered significant judgments, highlighting conflicting interpretations of constitutional principles. The first case concerned the control of civil services in the Delhi government, while the second case addressed the power dynamics within the Maharashtra government following a split in the Shiv Sena party.

Delhi Case: Civil Services and Accountability:
  • The issue was determining the accountability of civil services in the Delhi government.
  • The Supreme Court clarified that civil service officers are accountable to the Delhi cabinet.
  • This adherence to parliamentary democracy upholds the triple chain of command: officers to Ministers, Ministers to the legislature, and the legislature to the electorate.
Maharashtra Case: Party Whip and Legislative Power:
  • The case revolved around contradictory whips issued by factions within the Shiv Sena party.
  • The Court ruled that the power to issue directions lies with the political party, not the legislature party.
  • This reinforces the control of party leadership over legislators, breaking the triple chain of accountability and the principle of parliamentary democracy.
Contradiction in Interpretation:
  • The Delhi judgment emphasized daily assessment and accountability of the government through debates and motions.
  • In contrast, the Maharashtra judgment upholds the power of party leadership over legislators, undermining daily assessment and accountability.
Problematic Anti-Defection Law:
  • The anti-defection law assumes that any vote against party direction is a betrayal of the electoral mandate.
  • This contradicts the democratic principle of accountability of legislators to their voters.
  • Election results have shown that voters consider factors beyond party affiliation when voting.
Revisit the Anti-Defection Law:
  • The anti-defection law disrupts the chain of accountability and violates the central principle of parliamentary democracy.
  • A larger Bench should re-examine whether the anti-defection law violates the basic structure of the Constitution.
  • The question regarding the Speaker’s ability to decide on disqualification petitions must be expanded to consider the law’s compatibility with the Constitution.
Provisions of the Tenth Schedule on Disqualification of Members:
  1. Disqualification for Members of Political Parties:
    • Voluntary Membership Renunciation: If a member of a House voluntarily gives up his membership of a political party, he becomes disqualified.
    • Voting Against Party Direction: If a member votes or abstains from voting in the House contrary to the direction issued by his political party without obtaining prior permission, he becomes disqualified.
    • Party Condoning the Act: The disqualification can be avoided if the party condones the act within 15 days.
  2. Disqualification for Independent Members:
    • Joining a Political Party: An independent member of a House, elected without party affiliation, becomes disqualified if he joins any political party after the election.
  3. Disqualification for Nominated Members:
    • Joining a Political Party after Six Months: A nominated member of a House becomes disqualified if he joins any political party after six months from taking his seat in the House.
    • Exemption within Six Months: Within the first six months, a nominated member can join a political party without facing disqualification.

Hence we can conclude that the Tenth Schedule aims to ensure the loyalty and adherence of members elected on party tickets to their respective political parties. Members face disqualification if they voluntarily renounce party membership or vote against party directions without prior permission. Independent members are disqualified if they join a political party after being elected, while nominated members face disqualification if they join a political party after six months from taking their seat in the House. These provisions promote party discipline and discourage defection among elected representatives.

Exceptions to Disqualification:
  1. Merger of Party:
    • If a member goes out of his party due to a merger of the party with another party, the disqualification on the grounds of defection does not apply.
    • A merger is deemed to have occurred when two-thirds of the members of the party agree to such merger.
  2. Presiding Officer of the House:
    • If a member, after being elected as the presiding officer of the House (e.g., Speaker or Chairman), voluntarily gives up the membership of his party or rejoins it after ceasing to hold that office, the disqualification does not apply.
    • This exemption is provided to maintain the dignity and impartiality of the presiding officer’s position.

Note:

  • The provision of the Tenth Schedule exempting members from disqualification in case of a split by one-third members of the legislature party has been deleted by the 91st Amendment Act of 2003.
  • Defectors no longer have protection on the grounds of splits.
Conclusion and Way Ahead:
  • The Delhi and Maharashtra judgments highlight a contradiction in constitutional interpretation.
  • The anti-defection law undermines the accountability of governments to the people.
  • A re-examination of the law is necessary to reclaim the principles of parliamentary democracy and ensure government accountability.
Possible UPSC CSE Mains Questions
  1. Discuss the conflicting interpretations of constitutional principles highlighted by the Supreme Court judgments in the Delhi and Maharashtra cases. How do these interpretations impact accountability and parliamentary democracy? (250 words)
  2. Examine the issues related to the control of civil services in the Delhi government as discussed in the Supreme Court judgment. Analyze the significance of holding civil service officers accountable to the Delhi cabinet in upholding the principles of parliamentary democracy. (150 words)
  3. Evaluate the implications of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the power dynamics within the Maharashtra government following the split in the Shiv Sena party. How does this ruling reinforce the control of party leadership over legislators? Discuss its impact on the triple chain of accountability and the principle of parliamentary democracy. (250 words)
  4. Compare and contrast the Delhi and Maharashtra judgments in terms of their approach to daily assessment and accountability of the government. How do these judgments shape the understanding of accountability in the context of parliamentary democracy? (150 words)
  5. Analyze the problematic aspects of the anti-defection law as highlighted in the article. Discuss how the assumption that any vote against party direction is a betrayal of the electoral mandate contradicts the democratic principle of accountability. (200 words)
  6. Critically examine the role of the anti-defection law in disrupting the chain of accountability and violating the central principle of parliamentary democracy. Why is a re-examination of this law necessary? Discuss the need for a larger Bench to reconsider its compatibility with the basic structure of the Constitution. (250 words)
  7. Discuss the significance of the conflicting interpretations of constitutional principles in the Delhi and Maharashtra cases. How does the anti-defection law undermine the accountability of governments to the people? Suggest measures to ensure government accountability and uphold the principles of parliamentary democracy. (250 words)
Possible UPSC CSE MCQ

The triple chain of command, as upheld by the Supreme Court, includes the following:

a) Officers to Ministers, Ministers to the judiciary, and the judiciary to the electorate.

b) Officers to Ministers, Ministers to the legislature, and the legislature to the electorate.

c) Officers to the President, the President to the judiciary, and the judiciary to the electorate.

d) Officers to the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister to the legislature, and the legislature to the judiciary.

Answer: b) Officers to Ministers, Ministers to the legislature, and the legislature to the electorate.

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