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No ministry till defectors win next election, suggests govt

December 11, 2003 16:22 IST

In a bid to push electoral reforms, the government will bring in a Constitution amendment to disallow defectors from holding any office of profit till they win the next election.

The 97th Constitution (Amendment) Bill incorporating the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee, which got the Union Cabinet's nod on Wednesday, will be introduced in the winter session, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told reporters in Delhi on Thursday. "We will try and pass it in this session," she said.

The Bill aims at strengthening the Anti-defection Law.

The government has also accepted the committee's recommendation to limit the size of the Council of Ministers to 15 per cent of the Lower House instead of 10 per cent of the strength of both the Houses. This is because not all States have bicameral legislatures.

It clarified that the existing practice of including members from both the Houses of Parliament in the ministry may continue but for the purpose of limiting its size, the strength of lower House would be reckoned.

The strength of the Council of Ministers in small states would be 12 instead of seven as suggested in the original bill, she said.

The 44-member Standing Committee on Home Affairs, headed by Pranab Mukherjee (Congress), in its report has observed that the Bill in its present form suffered from an infirmity to the extent that a loser in any election to Parliament or a State Legislature becomes eligible to be appointed as a minister or to a remunerative political post even though the stigma of defection has not been condoned by the electorate.

Therefore, the committee, whose report was tabled in both Houses last week, felt that the objective of the Bill would be defeated.

It recommended that instead of merely contesting the elections, it should be explicitly provided in the Bill that the defector should be declared elected in order to be appointed as a minister or to a position of profit.

Endorsing the government's view, the committee said this would stop split in a party for a cause other than ideological, such as situational and motivational, resulting in a check on proliferation of political parties.

On the issue of a whip, the committee favours status quo. It said legislators may be given freedom of speech on legislation but it would not be desirable to give freedom of vote on the floor of the House to ensure stability of the government.

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