THE NCP’S decision to sack Ajit Pawar as its legislative party leader and bestowing all constitutional rights of the legislative party chief on state party president Jayant Patil, is being seen as an attempt to ensure that MLAs are not in a position to violate the party whip while voting during the floor test in the Assembly. Former principal secretary of the Legislative Secretariat, Anant Kalse, said, “In such a situation, Patil’s whip will be binding on all elected MLAs of NCP.”
Asked what will be the status of the Ajit-led group of MLAs who are likely to defy Patil’s whip on the floor of the House during voting, Kalse said, “The matter will be referred to the Speaker. It is for the Speaker to decide… the MLAs may be disqualified too.”
Kalse said the issue of disqualification of MLAs will not arise if the number of NCP MLAs, backing Ajit, is two-third or more.
The anti-defection law of 1985 is aimed at preventing elected MLAs and MPs from regularly changing parties according to their convenience. Under Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, the restrictions on movement of MLAs and MPs from one party to another have been imposed. It prescribes grounds for the disqualification of an MLA or MP for defection. To avoid being disqualified under the law, two-thirds or more legislators of a party will have to defect.
“In case of NCP, which has 54 MLAs, Ajit Pawar can lead a separate group only if he has the support of 36 MLAs. However, if he falls short of the 36 mark, MLAs will invite showcause notice from the Speaker, leading to disqualification,” Kalse said.
“In the current situation, the Ajit-Pawar led faction claiming the support of less than 36 MLAs will invite disqualification for violating the whip on the floor of the House,” he added. However, there is no time frame within which the Speaker has to take such a decision, Kalse said.
Senior lawyer and constitutional law expert Rakesh Dwivedi, when asked as to when and how the anti-defection law will operate in Maharashtra’s case, said it has no impact at the time of government formation, which always takes place before oath taking of MLAs in the Assembly. “The anti-defection law has no impact at time of formation of the government. The government is always formed before the oath of MLAs and MPs. Later, somebody will have to move an application before the Assembly Speaker alleging defection, if any.”
Senior advocate Vikas Singh, however, said that the anti-defection law will apply and the administration of oath to MLAs is immaterial. “Anti-defection law will apply. It does not matter whether MLAs have taken oath or not,” he said.