Understanding the Tenth Schedule
The recent refusal by the Maharashtra Assembly Speaker to disqualify 40 MLAs from the Eknath Shinde faction and 14 MLAs from the Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray (UBT) group has thrust the intricacies of the Tenth Schedule into the spotlight. This editorial analysis delves into the genesis of the Tenth Schedule, its intended purpose, the issues stemming from recent amendments, and the imperative need for reforms.
GS-02 (Indian Polity)
Examine the evolution and challenges posed by the Tenth Schedule in addressing legislative defections. Propose reforms, considering the role of whips, the ambiguity arising from amendments, and the imperative need for institutionalizing internal democracy within political parties. (250 words)
Dimensions of the Article:
- Genesis of the Tenth Schedule
- Role of Whips and Defection Scenarios
- Issues Arising from Amendments
- Maharashtra Conundrum
Genesis of the Tenth Schedule:
- The Tenth Schedule, introduced through the 52nd constitutional amendment in 1985, was a response to the political turbulence caused by legislators defecting from their parent parties during the 1960s and 70s.
- Aimed at fortifying the stability of elected governments, this schedule mandates the disqualification of members who voluntarily relinquish party membership or contravene party directives in a legislative house.
Role of Whips and Defection Scenarios:
- A pivotal aspect of the Tenth Schedule revolves around the ‘whip,’ a member appointed by a political party to issue instructions regarding voting.
- Defection, as defined by the schedule, encompasses the voluntary abandonment of party membership or disobedience of party directives.
- The schedule originally allowed exceptions, such as one-third members splitting to form a separate group and the merger of a political party with another approved by two-thirds of its legislature party.
- However, the omission of the former exception in 2003 has led to situations where a majority of members claim the original party status to evade disqualification.
Issues Arising from Amendments:
- The deletion of the one-third exception has given rise to instances where a significant majority of a legislature party effectively defects while asserting to be the original political entity.
- Recent cases, including the merging of legislature parties to escape disqualification in Rajasthan and Goa, exemplify the loopholes in the current framework. The authority to adjudicate on disqualification matters lies with the Speaker of the House, but concerns about impartiality persist, prompting suggestions for an independent tribunal.
- In the Maharashtra scenario, the emergence of a Shiv Sena faction led by Eknath Shinde in 2022 ignited a factional dispute. Both Shinde’s faction and the Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray (UBT) group claimed to be the authentic Shiv Sena, creating a quandary for the Speaker.
- The Speaker, basing the decision on the Shinde faction’s numerical strength and the party’s 1999 constitution, recognized it as the legitimate Shiv Sena. This decision, coupled with technical issues in serving whip instructions, led to the Speaker’s refusal to disqualify members.
Way Forward and Conclusion:
- The Supreme Court’s precedent in Sadiq Ali versus Election Commission of India (1971) established a three-test formula for determining the legitimate political party. This formula incorporates the aims and objects of the party, adherence to the party’s constitution reflecting inner-party democracy, and a majority in legislative and organizational wings. However, a dearth of inner-party democracy often catalyzes defections. The Election Commission’s recent recognition of the Eknath Shinde faction as the true Shiv Sena illustrates this conundrum.
- A definitive Supreme Court ruling and the establishment of an independent tribunal to decide on disqualifications are recommended to address ambiguities within the Tenth Schedule. However, the crux of the reform lies in institutionalizing internal democracy within political parties. Regular inner-party elections, rigorously monitored by the Election Commission, stand as a transformative measure to mitigate defection-related challenges and fortify the democratic fabric.