The ‘New Normal’ of Indian Parliamentary Democracy

Published date01 June 2021
Date01 June 2021
Subject MatterNotes/Comments
The ‘New Normal’
of Indian Parliamentary
Rangin Pallav Tripathy1
On 13 November 2019, in the case of Shrimanth Balasaheb Patil v. Hon’ble
Speaker, Karnataka Legislative Assembly,1 the Supreme Court of India partially
upheld the order passed by the speaker of the 15th Karnataka Legislative
Assembly. The speaker had disqualified the rebel Members of Legislative
Assembly (MLAs) of the Indian National Congress (INC) and Janata Dal (Secular)
(JDS) under the anti-defection law in the 10th Schedule to the Constitution.2 By
the time the Supreme Court delivered its verdict, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
had succeeded in dislodging the coalition government of INC and JDS. As such,
the coalition government would have lost the trust vote regardless of the decision
by the Supreme Court.3 The true implications of this decision transcend the tem-
porary fortunes of any political party and are rooted in the reasoning adopted by
the Court and not its final decision. The reasoning of the Court has created a
significant breach in the fabric of parliamentary democracy in India and has sig-
nificantly marginalised the relevance of anti-defection provisions in the
Constitution. While the entire world learnt the vocabulary of ‘new normal’4 within
6 months from the date of this decision with the COVID-19 pandemic, which
spread across the globe, the ‘new normal’ of parliamentary democracy created by
1 Shrimanth Balasaheb Patil v. Hon’ble Speaker, Karnataka Legislative Assembly (2019) SCC OnLine
SC 1454.
2 Incorporated into the Constitution in 1985, the 10th Schedule addresses the issue of defection by
elected representatives. Under the 10th Schedule, an elected representative is held to have defected
from one political party to another in the following two circumstances: (a) when the representative
voluntarily gives up the membership of his party and (b) when the representative votes or abstains
from voting in the legislature contrary to any directions issued by the political party. In either case, the
representative is disqualified from the membership of the Legislature. The question of defection is
decided by the Speaker/Chairman of the concerned legislature. The constitutionality of these provi-
sions was upheld in the case of Kihota Hollohon v. Zachillhu and Others, AIR 1993 SC 412.
3 As explained later in this article, whether the rebel MLAs lost the membership of the legislature by
disqualification or resignation, the political consequence remained the same for the coalition govern-
ment. See supra note 9.
4 From the ‘new normal’ to the ‘new future’: A sustainable response to COVID-19. https://www.who.
a-sustainable-response-to-covid-19 (accessed 5 April 2021).
Journal of National
Law University Delhi
8(1–2) 62–72, 2021
© 2022 National Law
University Delhi
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/22774017221094916
1 National Law University Odisha, Cuttack, Odisha, India.
Corresponding author:
Rangin Pallav Tripathy, B-1541, CDA Sector 6, Cuttack, Odisha 753014, India.

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