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Parliament toughens anti-defection law

December 18, 2003 17:57 IST
Last Updated: December 18, 2003 18:18 IST

In a major step to curb bulk political defections plaguing the country, Parliament on Thursday approved a Constitution Amendment Bill seeking to bar defectors from holding any public office.

The amendment deletes the provision allowing one-third of a legislature party to split without attracting provisions of the anti-defection law.

After Law Minister Arjun Jaitley declared that provisions on the defection would come into force immediately, the Rajya Sabha passed the bill with 163 members voting in favour and none against. The Lok Sabha has already passed the Bill.

On the clause on limiting the size of ministries to 15 per cent of the strength of the legislature with a minimum figure of 12, Jaitley said states had been given six months time to implement the new measure.

The new bill bars defectors from holding any office as a minister or any other remunerative post for at least the duration of the remaining term of existing legislature or until the next elections, whichever is earlier.

Jaitley left the definition of 'remunerative post' for 'future interpretation' while saying his understanding of the clause was that legislators could not hold any officer under the Government of India.

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In the statement of objects and reasons for the Bill, the law minister said this provision for exemption from disqualification in case of splits had come under severe criticism on account of the destabilising effect on governments. The committee on electoral reforms and the National Commission to review the working of the Constitution had recommended its exclusion.

Under the new law, Jaitley said discretionary powers of the presiding officers on splits would be "very limited" in connection with the bulk split clause.

On the subject of issuing whips by political parties, the law minister ruled out allowing any judicial intervention saying it was left to legislatures and presiding officers to decide on it.

On the clause on limiting the size of a ministry to 15 per cent of the strength of the legislature, subject to a minimum of 12, Jaitley said Northeastern states had been given six months' time to implement the new measure keeping in view the political situation in the Northeastern states, which had giant-sized ministries.

"The minimum figure of 12 has been kept to protect interests of tribals and other sections," Jaitley said.


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