Hollohon No More. Why is He Popular All Over India?

This Politics
This Politics

Covering Northeast India and Vicinity

Dimapur, 15 October (TP): Former Minister of Nagaland Kihoto Hollohon has just passed away today at the age of 89 in Dimapur, Nagaland. Chief Minister of Nagaland Neiphiu Rio has sent out condolence to his family. But who is he and why his name is overtly significant in the judicial-political system of India? We break down in detail his career and contribution made thereof.

He was Nagaland’s veteran politician but before joining state level politics he was serving Government of Nagaland as Inspector of Police. He resigned and got himself registered in politics later on. He is known to have elected from three different assembly constituencies at different times. He was elected thrice from Aghunato 34 AC and Dimapur III AC, and once from Ghaspani II AC. It is known that he had never been defeated in all elections he contested. On retirement from politics, he went back to Church mission building.

Kihoto Hollohon, Ex-Minister, Government of Nagaland

But why is his name so popular in the study of Indian political system as well as the judicial judgment? The reason lies in the landmark Supreme Court judgment of 1992 on the case between Kihoto Hollohon versus V. Zachillhu and Others on the legality of the Anti-Defection Law. The background and cause of this case traced back to the amendment which happened in the year 1985 and followed by much uproar which ultimately led to filing a Public Interest Ligitgation (PIL). The Constitution (Fifty-Second Amendment) Act, 1985 which is popularly known as Anti-Defection Law came into force in March 1985. It amended various articles of the constitution regarding vacation of the seats and disqualification from membership of both the houses of the parliament as well as state legislatures. The amendment also inserted a new schedule (tenth schedule) to the constitution setting out various provisions detailing disqualification on the ground of defection. The actual incident that ignited the Kihoto Hollohon case can be traced back to the  introduction of new jargon of Aaya Ram, Gaya Ram (Aaya Ram Gaya Ram expression in politics of India means the frequent floor-crossing, turncoating, switching parties and political horse trading in the legislature by the elected politicians and political parties. The term originated in 1967 in Haryana where excessive political horse trading, counter horse trading and counter-counter horse trading took place; triggering several rounds of frequent political defections by the serial-turncoat politicians within a span of few weeks; resulting in the dissolution of the Haryana Legislative Assembly and consequently the fresh elections were held in 1968) syndrome in political parlance, and 1967 elections in which Congress lost in the majority. There were large scale defections.

In this case, multiple petitions were heard together. So, the tenth schedule was added by the Constitution (fifty-second Amendment) Act, 1985. The combined petition aimed to challenge the Constitutional validity of the Tenth Schedule introduced by the Constitution (Fifty-Second Amendment) Act, 1985.

In a nutshell, any member of the parliament or state legislature will be treated as defected if he/she either voluntarily resigns from their party or disobey the orders of the party leadership on any situation which includes voting. The members are thus stopped from voting against the direction issued by the party’s whip. A whip is known as the official of any political party whose responsibility is to ensure party discipline in the legislature. 

The final landmark Judgement in Kihoto Hollohon vs Zachillhu and Others (1992) answers several of the questions and concerns regarding this law. While upholding the constitutional validity of this amendment, the court observed that the anti-defection law seeks to recognise the practical need to place the proprieties of political and personal conduct…above certain theoretical assumptions”. The court finally held that the law does not violate any rights of free speech or basic structure of the parliamentary democracy.
Another important aspect of this judgment is the final decision making authority on declaring the defection. The court made it clear that the presiding officer is the one to make the decision and it is final subject to judicial review after the decision is pronounced and effected.
The anti-defection law enabled the political parties to have stronger grip on their members which many times has resulted into preventing them to vote for the lure of money of minister ship. However, it is also resulted into its unintended outcome i.e. the curtailing to a certain extent the role of the MP or member of state legislature. It is culminated into absence of constructive debates on critical policy issues. The whip has become all the more powerful and has to be followed in all circumstances.

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