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Speaker facing the axe cannot disqualify MLAs, says SC (Relevant for GS Mains Paper II, Topic: Role of Speaker under Anti-defection Law)

Judgement of Supreme Court
A Speaker should refrain from deciding the disqualification of MLAs for defection under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution if he himself is facing the prospect of removal, the Supreme Court has held.
Basis of judgement
A Speaker, under the threat of losing his position, may choose to disqualify the MLAs to alter the composition of the House in his favour.

“We hereby hold that it would be constitutionally impermissible for a Speaker to adjudicate upon disqualification petitions under the Tenth Schedule, while a notice of resolution for his own removal from the office of Speaker is pending,” SC Bench interpreted .

Background
The court was discussing Speaker Nabam Rebia’s disqualification of 14 legislators when a resolution against his own removal was pending.
It refrained from going into Mr. Rebia’s actions, merely saying that the Gauhati High Court had already stayed the disqualification. Instead, the judgment interprets Article 179, which deals with the “vacation and resignation of, and removal from, the offices of Speaker and Deputy Speaker”.

Article 179(c) provides that a Speaker (or Deputy Speaker) “may be removed from his office by a resolution of the Assembly passed by a majority of all the then members of the Assembly”.
The judgment points to the phrase “all the then members of the Assembly” to conclude that the composition of legislators should remain the very same while deciding whether a majority in the House wants the Speaker to continue or not.

“The words ‘all the then members’ demonstrate an expression of definiteness. Any change in the strength and composition of the Assembly, by disqualifying sitting MLAs, for the period during which the notice of resolution for the removal of the Speaker (or the Deputy Speaker) is pending, would conflict with the express mandate of Article 179(c), requiring all ‘the then members’ to determine the right of the Speaker to continue,” the court held.



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