Urgent need to rationalise powers and jurisdictions of presiding officers: LS Speaker Om Birla

With the presiding officers across the states meeting on the occasion of the 100th year of All India Presiding Officers Conference (AIPOC), Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla said they would ponder over the “gradual decay in the discipline and decorum in the legislatures.” The three-day conference will also discuss the anti-defection law in the backdrop of demands that the law should be re-defined.

Pointing out that presiding officers have “unlimited powers”, Speaker Birla said there is urgent need to rationalize the powers and jurisdictions of Presiding Officers for putting in place a robust system for the implementation of the Anti-Defection Law.

The 82nd AIPOC will be held in Shimla from Tuesday and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the conference. AIPOC, the apex body of the legislatures in India, is celebrating its hundred years in 2021.

Expressing concern over the increasing instances of indiscipline in the assemblies and in Parliament, Birla said on Monday: ”The Shimla Conference will ponder over gradual decay in the discipline and decorum in the legislatures which is a matter of concern.” According to Birla, both legislators and lawmakers have the responsibility for the smooth conduct of proceedings in the legislative bodies.

Talking about the anti-defection law, Birla said a committee was constituted on the subject matter during the Presiding Officers’ Conference in 2019 and it is likely that a detailed discussion on the report will be held in Shimla. The Speaker has repeatedly stated that there was unanimity among the presiding officers that the speakers’ power in the tenth Schedule needed to be redefined. He is of the view that the political situation when the anti defection law was formed was different and the law needs to be reviewed factoring in the changes in political situation.

In a meeting of presiding officers in 2019, many had expressed their concern over the loopholes in the law that often cast a shadow on the Speaker’s role. While upholding the disqualification of 12 MLAs in Karnataka after the fall of the Congress-JD (S) government in 2019, the Supreme Court had mentioned about the “growing trend of speakers of legislative bodies acting against the constitutional duty of being neutral.”

Birla had earlier said that the Shimla conference will reach a conclusion over the changes in the law.

On the financial autonomy of the State Legislatures, Birla informed that this matter assumes great significance in the functioning of legislative bodies and AIPOC has discussed the matter on several occasions.

The first Conference was also held in Shimla in 1921. Birla, chairman of AIPOC, said the conference was being held in Shimla for the seventh time after 1921, 1926, 1933, 1939, 1976, and 1997.

Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jairam Thakur will address the gathering at the inauguration.

Birla said the 82nd AIPOC will discuss a range of issues—Journey of a Century (Evaluation and the way forward) and Responsibility of Presiding Officers towards the Constitution, the House, and the People.

Birla said the Valedictory Session of the 82nd AIPOC will be held on Thursday with Governor of Himachal Pradesh Rajendra Vishwanath Arlekar to address.

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