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Karnataka crisis: What was SC’s Kihoto Hollohan order of 1992, what is the role of Speaker?

Topic covered:

  1. Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.


Karnataka crisis: What was SC’s Kihoto Hollohan order of 1992, what is the role of Speaker?


What to study?

For prelims and mains: Anti- defection law- implementation, issues, role and powers of speaker, need and significance.


Context: In the arguments in the Supreme Court in the case related to the political crisis in Karnataka, advocate has cited the landmark judgment in Kihoto Hollohan vs Zachillhu And Others (1992), in which the court upheld the sweeping discretion available to the Speaker in deciding cases of disqualification of MLAs.


What was the Kihoto Hollohan case?

The law covering the disqualification of legislators and the powers of the Speaker in deciding such matters became part of the statute book in 1985 when the Tenth Schedule to the Constitution was adopted.

A constitutional challenge to the Tenth Schedule was settled by the apex court in Kihoto Hollohan.

The principal question before the Supreme Court in the case was whether the powerful role given to the Speaker violated the doctrine of Basic Structure — the judicial principle that certain basic features of the Constitution cannot be altered by amendments by Parliament, laid down in the landmark judgment in Kesavananda Bharati vs State Of Kerala (1973).


What is the extent of the Speaker’s powers?

Paragraph 6(1) of the Tenth Schedule describes the Speaker’s sweeping discretionary powers: “If any question arises as to whether a member of a House has become subject to disqualification under this Schedule, the question shall be referred for the decision of the Chairman or, as the case may be, the Speaker of such House and his decision shall be final.”


What did the Supreme Court rule in Hollohan?

  1. The majority judgement:

The Speakers/Chairmen hold a pivotal position in the scheme of Parliamentary democracy and are guardians of the rights and privileges of the House. They are expected to and do take far reaching decisions in the Parliamentary democracy. Vestiture of power to adjudicate questions under the Tenth Schedule in them should not be considered exceptionable.

The Schedule’s provisions were “salutory and intended to strengthen the fabric of Indian Parliamentary democracy by curbing unprincipled and unethical political defections.”


  1. Minority view:

The tenure of the Speaker, who is the authority in the Tenth Schedule to decide this dispute, is dependent on the continuous support of the majority in the House and, therefore, he does not satisfy the requirement of such an independent adjudicatory authority.

An independent adjudicatory machinery for resolving disputes relating to the competence of Members of the House is envisaged as an attribute of the democratic system which is a basic feature of our Constitution… [the Speaker’s] choice as the sole arbiter in the matter violates an essential attribute of the basic feature.


Sources: Indian Express.