Anti-Defection Law

Anti-Defection Law

  • The anti-defection law was enacted in 1985 as part of the 52nd Amendment Act.
  • It was included in the Tenth Schedule of the Indian Constitution and is commonly referred to as the Anti-Defection Act.
  • A "conscious renunciation of loyalty or duty" has been characterized as defection.
  • It establishes the procedure for disqualification due to defection.
  • The presiding officer has the right to dismiss a member for defection on proven reasons.
  • The purpose was to keep lawmakers from changing political parties while in office.
  • It applies to both the Parliament and the state legislatures.

How did the Change In the law?

  • Gaya Lal, a Haryana MLA, switched parties three times on the same day in 1967.
  • The slogan "Aaya Ram Gaya Ram" became famous in Indian politics after this.
  • It became a regular practice to move political parties between states, causing state governments to lose power.
  • This sparked debate in the Lok Sabha and a committee led by Home Minister Yashwantrao Balwantrao was formed to investigate the issue.
  • The Chavan Committee suggested that if a lawmaker switches parties for monetary benefit, they be removed from Parliament and prevented from running for office for some time.
  • The anti-defection law was created to prohibit such floor selection and was thus implemented under Rajiv Gandhi's administration via the 52nd Amendment.
  • The Tenth Schedule was taken before the Supreme Court in 1992, and its validity was questioned in the landmark case of Kihoto Hollohan v. Zachillhu and others.
  • The anti-defection statute was strengthened in 2003 with the 91st Amendment to cope with regular defection.
  • It repealed the safeguards that safeguarded parliamentarians in the event of a party break.
  • It further specified that any lawmaker disqualified under the Tenth Schedule would be barred from holding an executive or ministerial position.

What are its purposes?

  • Its purpose is to avoid defections motivated by the temptation of office, pecuniary benefits, or other similar factors.
  • It discourages politicians from changing their political affiliations to achieve personal gains.
  • It keeps the party system stable and prevents governments from being deposed.
  • It fosters party discipline by requiring lawmakers to vote in favor of the party whip.
  • It allows political parties to unite without disqualifying their members.
  • It strengthens the democratic institution and keeps corruption at bay.

What are the Reasons for Defection?

  • The Supreme Court has interpreted several parts of the Anti-Defection Law.
  • The statement "voluntarily giving up his membership" is one of the essential justifications.
  • It has a broader meaning than resignation.
  • In the lack of a formal resignation, the legislator's actions suggest that he has resigned from his position.
  • For example, in 2017, the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha disqualified two Janata Dal (United) members for "voluntarily giving up their membership." They criticized the party in public forums at several events and attended opposition party rallies.
  • "Violation of Instructions" is another reason for defection. It implies that he is disqualified if a lawmaker votes or abstains from voting in the House in defiance of a directive given by his political party.
  • The political party's directive is famously referred to as the party whip.
  • A lawmaker may also be disqualified if elected independently and joins a political party.
  • After six months from the day he became a lawmaker, a legislator will be declared disqualified if he is a nominated member and joins any political party.
  • The presiding officer's decision on the legality of reasons for disqualification or defection is subject to Judicial Review.
  • Initially, the presiding officer's judgment was not susceptible to Judicial Review.
  • The Supreme Court granted appeals against the Presiding Officer's ruling in the High Court and Supreme Court in 1992.
  • However, no court intervention is possible until the Presiding Officer issues his order.

What are the exceptions to the law?

  • The legislation allows a party to join with another party, provided at least two-thirds of the party's lawmakers support the merger.
  • Neither members who opt to combine nor those who remain in the old party will be disqualified.
  • The speaker, Chairman, and deputy chairman of the legislature are free from disqualification based on defection, according to Paragraph 5 of the Anti-Defection Law.

What are the various points of view on anti-defection legislation?

  • Based on the opinion of the Election Commission, expert panels recommend that the President disqualify a member of Parliament and the Governor decide to disqualify a member of the State Assembly.
  • The Supreme Court has suggested that Parliament consider establishing an independent panel led by a retired judge. It will allow defection instances to be resolved promptly and efficiently.
  • Some argue that the anti-defection law is no longer in effect and contains several problems. Former Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari believes it only applies in circumstances of no-confidence motions.
  • Following the implementation of the Anti-defection law, the MP or MLA must blindly follow the party's instructions and has no freedom to vote their conscience.
  • The chain of responsibility has been disrupted due to the Anti-Defection law, which holds MPs solely accountable to their political party.

What are the most recent developments in anti-defection legislation?

  • The Supreme Court declared in 2020 that the speakers must decide on disqualification within a "reasonable period."
  • Keisham Meghachandra v. the Hon'ble Speaker of Manipur (2020)
  • Justice Rohinton Nariman discussed the necessity for an external way to deal with defection instances in Keisham Meghachandra v. the Hon'ble Speaker Manipur.
  • "Parliament may seriously consider modifying the Constitution to replace the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and Legislative Assemblies as an adjudicator of issues over disqualification that arises under the Tenth Schedule," he says.
  • He continued, "with a permanent Tribunal headed by a retired Supreme Court Judge or a retired Chief Justice of the High Court, or some other outside independent mechanism to ensure that such disputes are decided both swiftly and impartially, thus giving real teeth to the provisions contained in the Tenth Schedule, which are so vital in the proper functioning of our democracy."
  • The Maharashtra political crisis has also shed new light on the duties of the Speaker and Governor, as well as the anti-defection law.