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Anti-defection law

Topics Covered: Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.

Anti-defection law:


Context:

Lok Sabha Secretariat has issued notices to three MPs, after their parties petitioned Speaker Om Birla, seeking their disqualification under the Anti-Defection Law.

  • They have been asked to give their comments within 15 days of receipt of letters.

 

Anti-defection law:

  • In 1985 the Tenth Schedule, popularly known as the anti-defection law, was added to the Constitution by the 52nd Amendment Act.
  • The purpose of the Amendment was to bring stability to governments by deterring MPs and MLAs from changing their political parties on whose ticket they were elected.
  • The penalty for shifting political loyalties is the loss of parliamentary membership and a bar on becoming a minister.

 

When can a member be disqualified?

If a member of a house belonging to a political party:

  1. Voluntarily gives up the membership of his political party, or
  2. Votes, or does not vote in the legislature, contrary to the directions of his political party. However, if the member has taken prior permission, or is condoned by the party within 15 days from such voting or abstention, the member shall not be disqualified.
  3. If an independent candidate joins a political party after the election.
  4. If a nominated member joins a party six months after he becomes a member of the legislature.

 

However, Legislators may change their party without the risk of disqualification in certain circumstances. Exceptions:

  1. The law allows a party to merge with or into another party provided that at least two-thirds of its legislators are in favour of the merger.
  2. On being elected as the presiding officer of the House, if a member, voluntarily gives up the membership of his party or rejoins it after he ceases to hold that office, he won’t be disqualified.

 

Decision of the Presiding Officer is subject to judicial review:

The law initially stated that the decision of the Presiding Officer is not subject to judicial review. This condition was struck down by the Supreme Court later, thereby allowing appeals against the Presiding Officer’s decision in the High Court and Supreme Court.

  • However, it held that there may not be any judicial intervention until the Presiding Officer gives his order.

 

Is there a time limit within which the Presiding Officer should decide?

  • There is no time limit as per the law within which the Presiding Officers should decide on a plea for disqualification.

 

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Names of various committees and commissions with regard to Anti Defection law.
  2. Committees vs Commissions.
  3. Decision of presiding officer vs Judicial review.
  4. Merger vs Split of political parties.
  5. Is anti- defection law applicable to the presiding officer?
  6. Relevant Supreme Court cases and verdicts.

Mains Link:

Examine the provisions of Anti- defection law. Has this law largely failed to meet its objective? Discuss.

Sources: the Hindu.