Explained: What is Anti-Defection Law - UPSC Current Affairs

Explained: What is Anti-Defection Law - UPSC Current Affairs

It’s time to give a boost to your UPSC CSE preparation with our Daily edition of Current Affairs. Today we will discuss Anti Defection Law in the backdrop of Maharashtra’s political upheaval and its relevance to the UPSC CSE syllabus. 

Read further to enhance your UPSC exam preparation. 

For Prelims: Anti-defection Law and 10th Schedule of Indian Constitution 

For Mains: Polity and Governance, Parliament and State legislators, Disqualification of Members, Power of Speakers, Committee Recommendations

Also read Single Use Plastic Banning, in yesterday’s edition of Current Affairs. 

Context

In the backdrop of Maharashtra’s political upheaval, Anti-defection law once again became a topic of debate.

Probable Question

Anti-Defection Law failed to serve its purpose. Do you agree? Give your opinion in the context of recent developments in various states in the country.

About Anti Defection Law

  • The Tenth Schedule of the Indian Constitution is popularly known as the anti-defection law.
  • It became part of the Indian Constitution via the 52nd Amendment Act of 1985.
  • It prohibits Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) or Members of Parliament (MPs) from joining a political party after getting elected from another party, and if they still do so, it might result in losing their membership in the legislature.
  • The law is applicable to both Parliament and State legislatures.
  • It was enacted to ensure the stability of the government by controlling the disruptions caused by defections of the elected members of the parliament or state legislatures.

Provisions of Anti-Defection Law

  • Grounds of Disqualification under anti-defection law:
    • If an elected member voluntarily gives up his membership of a political party.
    • If he votes or abstains from voting contrary to the whip issued by the political party.
    • If any independently elected member joins any other political party.
    • If any nominated member joins any political party after the expiry of six months.
  • Role of Speaker or Chairman: The decision of disqualifying the member of the legislature is to be taken by the Chairman or the Speaker and his decision shall be final.

The Exception under the Tenth Schedule

  • The law allows merger or split of parties when elected MLAs or MPs constituting two-thirds of the party’s strength to either merge with another party or become a separate group in the legislature. In such a case, the defying legislators will not face any disqualification.
  • The law also exempts Speaker, Deputy Speaker, or Deputy Chairman (Chairman in case of state assembly), if they resign from their political party to perform their duties. 

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Significance of the Anti-Defection Law

  • Horse trading can destabilize the elected government. Anti-defection law prohibits defection to other parties on the basis of self-interest, to maintain stability.
  • Such restrictions help in taking bold policy decisions in the larger public interests.
  • To bring a sense of loyalty among party members.
  • Strict measures in the law provide stability to the government.

Challenges in the Anti-Defection Law

  • The Presiding Officer doesn’t have a specific time limit to decide on a disqualification plea.
  • The members facing disqualification have to wait until the decision given by the Presiding Officer, as no courts can intervene before that.
  • The delay in the decision has resulted in defected members, continuing to be the members of the House.
  • The continuing membership has resulted in instances, where they have been appointed Ministers in the opposition party.

Criticism of the Anti-Defection Law

  • Anti-Defection law failed to provide stability to the democratically elected governments.
  • The toppling of governments in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, and turbulations in Maharashtra and Rajasthan are examples proving the ineffectiveness of the law.  
  • Provision of merger or split by 2/3rd members acts as a loophole and the goal of stability is often defeated. 
  • Violation of representative democracy, in cases wherein a political party, acts as a dictator for its members, who are put under pressure to obey the high command.
  • Controlling the voting behavior of the elevated MPs and MLAs is also against the spirit of democracy. It had led to declining quality debates in the House and had given priority to the interests of the party over the people.

Also Read: Anti Defection Law Notes

Way Forward

  • The defection of elected members is a political problem, it cannot be solved solely by the enactment of laws. 
  • People’s voting behavior must be changed for rational voting and democratic reforms within political parties must be ensured.
  • There are various committees and commissions that gave recommendations to take steps in this direction:
  • Constitution Review Commission (2002) recommends –
    • To be barred the defectors for the duration of the remaining term, from holding public office or any remunerative political post.
    • To treat those votes cast by a defector, to topple a government as invalid.
  • The Election Commission recommends that the decisions taken under the Tenth Schedule should be made by the President/ Governor on the basis of the binding advice of the Election Commission.
  • Law Commission (170th Report, 1999) suggests –
    • The deletion of provisions that exempt splits and mergers from disqualification.
    • Under the anti-defection law, the pre-poll electoral fronts should be treated as political parties.
    • Limitation in the issuance of whips by the political parties to instances only when the government is in danger.
  • Dinesh Goswami’s Committee on Electoral Reforms (1990) suggested that the issue of disqualification should be decided by the President/ Governor on the advice of the Election Commission.

Source: The Indian Express, The Hindu

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