Karnataka High Court issues guidelines to political parties on directing elected members 35 years after failing to frame rules under the Karnataka Local Authorities (Prohibition of Defection) Act, 1987.
In litigation involving elected members of the Town Municipal Council, Mahalingapura, the court deemed it necessary to provide guidelines until the State established the required regulations.
Justice NS Sanjay Gowda’s guidelines stipulate that at least 5 days before a meeting is convened, a political party or the person authorised by it must provide its members with a copy of the direction to act in a particular way. This provision applies to Whips issued by the parties regarding voting. The guidelines go on to state that elected members of the party to have the option of seeking permission to act contrary to the direction and thus be exempt from disqualification according to the Act.
No proceedings to disqualify elected members shall be started if the governing body of the political party has not informed the authority responsible for calling the meeting of the elected members.
The empowered authority must communicate the direction of a political party to its elected members at least five days before the meeting. This can be done in the same way as the notification of the meeting is sent. Delivery of this communication can be done through courier or email, giving the elected members at least five days to request permission to vote against the direction.
After a petition was filed by Savita, Chandini, and Godavari, all members of the Mahalingapur Town Municipal Council from the BJP, guidelines were issued regarding the elections for the post of president and vice-president. These elections were held in November 2020.
In the aftermath of the election, the BJP held a meeting of its elected councillors, in which Snehal Shivanand Angadi was declared the official candidate for president and Laxmi Mahalingappa Muddapur was selected as the official vice-presidential candidate.
As the three petitioners were not present in the meeting, the party communicated its direction to its elected members to vote for the official candidates by affixing the direction on the doors of their houses.
The Deputy Commissioner (DC), after an enquiry, disqualified them as councillors. They challenged this in the High Court. The court said, “Mere pasting of the Whip on the doors of the petitioners’ houses by way of affixture would not be sufficient to hold that the Whip has been served on the petitioners”. It said it had to be served in “the manner known to like, i.e., RPAD and courier or by personal service.”
The Court determined that the District Commissioner (DC) had not proven that the councillors had acted in opposition to the instructions the political party gave. Consequently, the petition was accepted, and the DC’s disqualification order was annulled.
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