Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla on Thursday stressed on the neutrality of presiding officers in legislatures, saying they should take impartial decisions on defections in a time-bound manner which could not be questioned by the judiciary.
Birla said a committee of speakers of legislatures has also been formed to evaluate the provisions of the anti-defection law, which will soon submit its report.
“A speaker should be neutral and impartial and should take non-controversial decisions on defections in a time-bound manner while keeping in mind the dignity of his or her post,” he told PTI on the sidelines of a two-day conference of the presiding officers of the legislatures.
“Decisions should be such on which no one can raise questions, including the judiciary,” the Lok Sabha speaker said.
The 10th schedule to the Indian Constitution, which is also popularly referred to as the anti-defection law, was discussed at length on the concluding day of the conference.
Birla’s remarks came a month after the Supreme Court made an observation about “a growing trend of speakers of legislative bodies acting against the constitutional duty of being neutral”.
The apex court made the observation while upholding the disqualification of 17 lawmakers of the Karnataka Assembly, whose resignations had toppled the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition government in the state and made way for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to return to power.
Speaking at the valedictory session of the conference, Birla described the defections as a “very serious issue” and said the 10th schedule of the Constitution has given many powers to the speaker.
Underlining that the speaker’s role should be “neutral”, he said, “Speaker’s post assumes tremendous respect and dignity. His decisions should be neutral and decisive.”
Without mentioning the apex court’s observation in case of Karnataka MLAs, Birla said, “If the judiciary starts questioning the decisions (of the speaker) and start commenting on it than it is a matter of concern for us.”
Sharing the details of deliberations of the conference, he said speakers of state assemblies are of the opinion that a minimum number of days should be fixed for sitting of the legislatures in the states.
He said concerns were also expressed about the members’ conduct in the House that results in the washout of the session.
Birla said presiding officers were of the view to draft more stringent rules for code of conduct of the members.