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Provisions of Anti-Defection Law in India

Posted by Manoj Vats on January 27, 2015 | Read the First Comment

The Anti-Defection Law was enacted through the 52nd Amendment in 1985 and enshrined in the Tenth Schedule. This Act lays down the provisions for disqualification of elected members on the grounds of defection to a different political party.

Provisions of Anti-Defection Law in India

The law was enacted at the initiative of the Rajiv Gandhi-led government that came to power with a thumping majority in the wake of the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

Why is Anti Defection Law needed?

The Rajiv Gandhi government was spurred to introduce this law as several defections were witnessed in the eighties. The Amendment was supposed to bring stability to the structure of political parties and strengthen parliamentary democracy by prohibiting floor-crossing.

The earlier failures to deal with this issue had caused rampant horse-trading and corruption. The Schedule X was, therefore, seen as a tool to cure this malaise. This constitutional measure meant that after a member was elected under the symbol of a political party to Parliament, the member couldn’t later opt to leave that party or switch to a different party.

Provision  for disqualification under the Anti-Defection Law

Under the Articles 102 (2) and 191 (2), it is mentioned that an elected member will attract disqualification, if he voluntarily offers up his membership of a political party; if he votes or withdraws from voting in such House contrary to any direction issued by his party or anyone authorised to try and do so, without getting prior permission.

The provisions are created with relevance to mergers of political parties. There is no disqualification to be incurred when a legislature party decides to merge with another party and such decision is supported by not less than two-thirds of its members.

The Chairman or the Speaker of a House has been empowered to frame rules for giving effect to the provisions of the Tenth Schedule. The rules are set before the House and shall be subject to modifications/disapproval by the House.

Loopholes in Anti-Defection Law and Amendment made to it

On the electoral reforms, the Dinesh Goswami Committee in its report on “Reform of Electoral Laws” had suggested the deletion of the Tenth Schedule provision regarding exemption from disqualification in case of a split in a political party.

Finally, the 91st Constitutional modification Act, 2003, modified this. Thus at least two-thirds of the members of a party have to be in favour of a merger for it to possess validity in the eyes of the law.  

A split in a political party won’t be considered a defection if a complete political party merges with another political party; if a new political party is created by the elected members of one party; if he or she or alternative members of the party haven’t accepted the merger between the two parties and opted to perform as a separate group from the time of such a merger.

On defection of elected members, the concerned party can send a petition on the alleged defection to the Chairman or the Speaker of a House recommending their disqualification. It may also expel the members. However this doesn’t mean that the members thus expelled lose their seats in the House.