ANTI DEFECTION LAW
- The Anti-Defection Act is a law that prohibits anyone from defecting.
- The Anti-Defection Act, also known as the Tenth Schedule, was included into the Constitution via the 52nd Amendment Act, 1985, and establishes rules for disqualifying elected members for defection to another political party.
The following are the grounds for disqualification under the Anti-Defection Law:
- If an elected official willingly withdraws from a political party.
- If he votes or abstains from voting in that House without first receiving authorization from his political party or anybody authorized to do so.
- His abstention from voting should not be excused by his party or the authorised person within 15 days of the incident as a condition of his disqualification.
- If a member who was elected independently joins a political party.
- If a nominated member joins a political party after the six-month period has expired.
- A ‘merger’ was defined by the 1985 Act as a ‘defection’ by one-third of a political party’s elected members.
- However, the 91st Constitutional Amendment Act of 2003 amended this, requiring at least two-thirds of a party’s members to support a “merger” in order for it to be legal.
- Members who have been disqualified can run for a seat in the House from any political party.
- Questions of disqualification based on defection are addressed to the Chairman or Speaker of such House for a decision, which is subject to ‘judicial review.’
Issues Concerning Anti-Defection Legislation:
Representative Democracy Is Undermined:
Following the enactment of the Anti-defection law, an MP or MLA must blindly follow the party’s orders.
- This limits their ability to vote their conscience on any topic, undermining representative democracy.
Legislative Undermining: An elected MLA or MP’s primary responsibility is to review and vote on policies, bills, and budgets.
- Instead, the MP is reduced to a number that the party can add to any vote it supports or opposes.
- Parliamentary Democracy is Undermined: The government is held accountable on a daily basis through questions and motions, and it can be ousted at any time if it loses the support of a majority of Lok Sabha members.
- This line of accountability has been disrupted by the Anti-Defection Law, which holds MPs solely accountable to their political party.
- As a result, anti-defection legislation is incompatible with the concept of parliamentary democracy.
- Speaker’s Controversial Role: In several cases, the Speaker (typically from the ruling party) has postponed making a decision on the disqualification.
- The Supreme Court has attempted to address this by requiring the Speaker to make a decision within three months, although it is unclear what will happen if the Speaker fails to do so.
- Anti-defection law introduced an exception for anti-defection ruling as a result of the 91st constitutional amendment in 2004.
- According to this, if two-thirds of a party’s strength agrees to a’merger,’ it will not be considered a defection.
- The amendment, on the other hand, does not recognize a’split’ in a legislature party, but rather a’merger.’
Proposed Changes: One alternative is to submit such cases to the high court or the Supreme Court for an express judgment, which should be rendered within 60 days.
- The second option is for someone who has a difference of opinion about the party or its leadership to quit and seek a new mandate from the people.
- As a result of these developments, an elected representative must be accountable and responsible to the people.
Ways to Strengthen Intra-Party Democracy in the Future:
- If government stability is a problem as a result of party defections, the solution is for parties to increase their internal democracy.
Laws to Regulate Political Parties: In India, there is a pressing need for legislation to regulate political parties. A bill like this would make political parties subject to RTI, promote intra-party democracy, and so on.
- Removing the Chairman/Speaker of the House from Adjudicating Powers: As the final authority in terms of defection, the Chairman/Speaker of the House has an impact on the doctrine of separation of powers.
- Transferring this power to the higher judiciary or the Election Commission (as recommended by the 2nd ARC report) may help to reduce the threat of defection in this scenario.
Restricting the Scope of Anti-defection Law:
In order to shield the detrimental effect of the anti-defection law on representative democracy, the scope of the law can be restricted to only those laws, where the defeat of government can lead to loss of confidence.
Source: THE HINDU.