Former CS O Nabakishore Singh responds to additional AG on confidence motion

Additional advocate general Rarry Mangsatabam had attempted to justify voice vote in the confidence motion held in the sitting of Manipur Legislative Assembly on August 10 in his article ‘Of confidence motion and voice vote’

Former chief secretary Oinam Nabakishore Singh on Wednesday reacted to additional advocate general Rarry Mangsatabam’s article ‘Of confidence motion and voice vote’ published by local dailies on Monday.

The additional advocate general Rarry Mangsatabam, while justifying voice vote in the confidence motion held in the sitting of Manipur Legislative Assembly on August 10 in his article ‘Of confidence motion and voice vote’ have “conveniently ignored stipulations by Constitution, Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Manipur Legislative Assembly, rulings of Supreme Court and adoption of division of the House in the Parliament and Parliaments of the Commonwealth countries as preferred and reliable voting procedure,” stated a statement issued by Nabakishore.  

He should not lose sight of the importance of voting in the House to ascertain if any member votes for or against the whip/direction of the Political Party to which the member belongs, it stated.

“Any disobedience of whip/direction of the political party attracts provisions of Para 2(1) (b) of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution and consequent disqualification under the said Schedule. Whip/directions were issued by both BJP and Congress before the session on August 10,” it added.

In a voice vote, members answer the query of the speaker by saying “Ayes” or “Noes” as the case may be. Speaker compares the replies of members in “Ayes” and “Noes” in terms of loudness and pitch of their voice, it mentioned. However, such voting cannot exactly decide if any member voted for or against the whip/direction of the political party it added. As such, this procedure makes it impossible for the political party to initiate a disqualification process against any member suspected to have disobeyed party whip before the Speaker’s Tribunal in accordance with the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, Nabakishore stated.

It further said that such voting further defeats the very purpose of curbing political defection by members as envisaged in the Statement of Objects and Reasons appended in the Constitution (Fifty-Second Amendment) Bill, 1985.

The question to be asked to the speaker of Manipur Legislative Assembly is, “By not allowing division of the House as provided by Rule 360 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Manipur Legislative Assembly, was the Speaker preventing disqualification of members under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution?”

By ignoring and circumventing the importance and requirement of division in the House in order to see the effect of Tenth Schedule on members, which was hanging like sword of Damocles above them in the House during voting, additional advocate general is doing a great disservice to the people of Manipur, Nabakishore stated. “How can he justify a voice vote when there was clear demand for division? Being a legal officer, he is expected to guide and inform the public in the right way,” it added.

The statement further mentioned that Rules 332 to 324 and 360 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Manipur Legislative Assembly are not exclusive of each other, and Rule 332 to 324 are not options against Rule 360 as they are entirely different procedures under different circumstances.

Rule 360 comes into play when division is sought by a member challenging voice vote as a decision on a motion, it stated.  It is, indeed, mandatory for speakers to follow Rule 360 in its entirety and not otherwise, it added.

“When the speaker had no option of choosing Rules 332-324 over Rule 360, it is a blatant violation of Rule and established parliamentary practice to go for Rule 324. Rule 367 and 367A, 367AA and 367B of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha clearly lay different methods to be used in voting for following different types of divisions. When the opinion of the Speaker is challenged by a member, he has no other option other than division,” it stated.

Reliance on previous judgements of the Supreme Court and adopting the procedure or substantive issues decided in similar cases is a well known legal practice. Judgements of the Supreme Court are as good as law, which is regularly repeated by professors of law in law classes, it added.

It further stated, “While the judgements of Supreme Court in the cases of Harish Rawat and Shivraj Singh Chouhan may not be binding on the voting procedure in Manipur Legislative Assembly, adopting a different procedure when there was opposition from members belonging to opposition party will cast doubts on the motive of the Speaker”.

“In fact, being the custodian of the House, the speaker is expected to follow law in letter and spirit. Nobody is above the law. Departure from rule of law does not bode well for the future of Manipur and parliamentary democracy. Our leaders are expected to set good examples for the younger generation,” it added.

First Published:Aug. 19, 2020, 10:51 p.m.