Need new rules to tame 'erring' MPs: Venkaiah Naidu

Vice-president calls for a stronger anti-defection law to make it harder to switch parties.

New Delhi: Restoring the prestige of the Upper House is my “immediate” priority, vice-president and Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu said Tuesday as he called for reframing rules to take care of “erring members” and suggested stricter provisions in the anti-defection law.

In an interview, Mr Naidu also suggested a host of reforms such as a decision by presiding officers within three months of receiving a complaint against a member for changing party allegiance, and setting up special courts dedicated to election-related petitions for speedy disposal.

Those leaving their parties must also quit their House membership, Mr Naidu said, elaborating on his suggestion to reform the anti-defection law for quick action against party hoppers.

“This is the minimum moral responsibility. I want to make it a Constitutional responsibility. Morals, some follow, some don’t,” said Mr Naidu, who completed a year in office last month.

The current law on defections does not prescribe a deadline for presiding officers to dispose of complaints submitted by political parties against defectors.

According to the law, at least two-third members of a legislature party have to defect for escaping punitive measures like losing membership of the House. “The time has come that rules of Parliament should be reframed to take care of erring members and this is possible if there is a consensus,” Mr Naidu said.

He said a committee appointed by him to revise Rajya Sabha rules has submitted a preliminary report and will submit the final report by October. “My immediate concern is restoring prestige and decorum of Rajya Sabha...,” he said when asked about his priorities in his second year in office.

Expressing concern over the delay in presiding officers deciding on complaints, he said there have been instances when a decision has taken five years.

“That is wrong... Every party tries to take advantage. All these petitions should be disposed of in three months,” Mr Naidu said.

Loopholes in the anti-defection law have to be addressed by amending the law to take care of “grey areas”.

Citing his decision on a Janata Dal (United) plea for disqualification of its Rajya Sabha MP Sharad Yadav, he said he had shown the way.

Mr Naidu had disqualified Mr Yadav in December last year within three months of receiving the complaint against him.

“If you (presiding officer) sit on it and delay it, then it means you are going against the spirit of the law,” he said.

He said that he handled two key events in his first year in office — the complaint against Mr Yadav and a move by the Congress-led Opposition to impeach Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra. He said that he was very satisfied with the decisions he took in both the matters.

On the bid to impeach the CJI, Mr Naidu said that after consulting a host of experts he rejected the notice on the impeachment move within days of receiving it.

“It should be decided quickly. Urgency is required in such matters as a delay would cripple the institution,” he said referring to the impeachment move.

Mr Naidu said his decision on the CJI was received well by the country — the legal fraternity, academics and the media.

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