Anti-Defection Act

Recently on October 7, Calcutta High Court gave directions to West Bengal Assembly Speaker Biman Chatterjee. He was given an order to pass an order in the defection case against the member of the Legislative Assembly.

A few months back, we heard about similar proceedings going on in Rajasthan and Jharkhand.

Why is defection too common in India? What are the measures taken by the government to resolve this issue? Are those measures working enough to strengthen democracy or not? Read this blog to the end to answer your questions. 

Tenth Schedule of Indian Constitution

The Tenth Schedule was added to the constitution by the 52nd Amendment Act of 1985. It is also known as “Anti-defection law.”

Later, the 91st Amendment Act, 2003, made a change in the Tenth Schedule. The exception provision of disqualification based on defection does not apply if a split is omitted by this amendment.

What is the Anti-defection Act?

Anti-defection laws are the set of rules provided for the disqualification of the MPS and MLAs on the ground of defection from one party to another. This act disqualifies MP and MLA to be a member of the house on different grounds.

Provisions of the Act:

Disqualification:

An MP or an MLA is disqualified on defection in the following case to be a member of the house.

Members of the political party: a member of any political party is disqualified

  1. If he voluntarily gives up his membership of the political party
  2. If he votes or doesn’t vote in a direction issued by his political party before issuing permission of the party.

Independent members: a member who is not set up as a political party candidate is disqualified from being an MP or MLA if he joins a political party after being elected.Nominated Members

When a nominated member takes a seat in the house, he should join a political party within six months of the former date. Otherwise, he will be disqualified for being a member of the house.

Exceptions

The mentioned disqualification doesn’t apply.

  • When a member leaves in the case of merging of two political parties.
  • When a member gives up his party membership for joining the office of the President.

Deciding Authority:

The presiding officer of the house decides any dispute in this field or question. His decision is a judicial tribunal (after the Kihoto Holohan case, 1993) and is subject to judicial review. He can make any rule in Anti- Defection act. Houses may approve, modify, or disapprove of these rules. The presiding officer can take up a defection case only when a house member complains about it.

Why was there a need for an Anti-Defection Act?

The major need of the Anti-defection act is to provide stability among political parties. Along with stability Anti-defection act also helps in:

  • Checking the propensity of legislators
  • Facilitates democratic realignment of parties in the legislature
  • Ease way for party merger
  • Reduces Corruption
  • Reduces the non-developmental expenditure of irregular elections
  • Provides constitutional recognition to the political parties

Criticism of Anti-Defection Act

Though having several advantages, Anti-defection Act was criticized for the following reasons:

  • The act doesn’t differentiate between dissent and defection.
  • Authorize a party to rule on its members, and thus it is a tyranny.
  • It legalized group defection.
  • Legislators can’t disagree with the worthless and bad party rules
  • Discrimination between an independent and a nominated member.
  • The ultimate power to the presiding officer is debatable.

A Way Forward

Anti-defection Act is essential for the stability of the political parties in the government. This stability further ensures the proper functioning of the legislation. The anti-defection act came after so many requests from the leaders and ministers. The former prime minister of India, late Shri Rajiv Gandhi, while introducing the Anti-defection bill in the parliament, referred to it as the first step to ‘clean the democracy.’

It was essential to implement such an act, as the growing cases of changing parties led to high government instability. Political leaders change their parties from another. There are several reasons for that. Sometimes, leaders change political parties to gain more political benefits. And sometimes, the opposition party lures the strong leader of another party in terms of economic benefits or rewards.

But there is always a scope of modification. There are a few amendments that can strengthen the anti-defection act more. Like, the decision-making power of the presiding officer should be given to a judicial officer. Even in a few earlier cases, the presiding officer himself found the procedure difficult and doubtful. In the end, any act should be a discipline and not a curse to someone’s freedom. The measure should be taken to ensure the freedom of leaders and ministers with respect to their political parties.

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This post was last updated on November 1st, 2021 at 11:51 am

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