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Two judgments and the principle of accountability

  • Published
    18th May, 2023


Two Constitution Benches of the Supreme Court of India delivered important judgments last week. The first case decided was regarding the Delhi government, while the second case involved the formation of the government in Maharashtra.

Contradiction of Two principle

  • Delhi case: SC explained that there exists triple chain of command: civil service officers are accountable to Ministers; Ministers are accountable to the legislature; and the legislature is accountable to the electorate. 
  • Maharashtra Judgement: Court stated that 10th schedule marks difference between the legislature part and political party. It ruled that power to issue directions was with the political party and not the legislature party.
  • Contradiction: The judgement establishes the power of the Party leadership over the legislature. It reinforces the idea that MP/MLA is not accountable to the electorate but only to party. This contradicts the triple chain of accountability.

The problem is with Anti-defection law

  • Wrong assumption: The underlying assumption behind the enactment of the anti-defection law is that any vote by an MP/MLA against the party mandate is treachery against the electoral mandate. This is faulty understanding of the representative democracy.
  • Party affiliation is not absolute: While party affiliation is an important element in elections, it is not the sole criterion for voters. Supreme Court has recognised this principle and asked all candidates to disclose information in order to allow voters to take an informed decision.
  • Example: Karnataka by-elections were triggered due to the defection of several Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) MLAs in 2019. 13 of the defectors contested on a BJP ticket, and 11 of them were re-elected. Thus the electorate endorsed the candidate and not the original party.
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