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Anti-Defection Law

Anti-Defection Law:

The Calcutta High Court has given West Bengal Assembly Speaker a deadline to pass an order in the defection case involving a Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA).

  • Anti-defection proceedings are also going on in other states such as Jharkhand and Rajasthan.
  • The anti-defection law punishes individual Members of Parliament (MPs)/MLAs for leaving one party for another.
  • Parliament added it to the Constitution as the Tenth Schedule in 1985. Its purpose was to bring stability to governments by discouraging legislators from changing parties.
  • The Tenth Schedule – popularly known as the Anti-Defection Act – was included in the Constitution via the 52nd Amendment Act, 1985 and sets the provisions for disqualification of elected members on the grounds of defection to another political party.
  • It was a response to the toppling of multiple state governments by party-hopping MLAs after the general elections of 1967.
  • However, it allows a group of MP/MLAs to join (i.e. merge with) another political party without inviting the penalty for defection. And it does not penalise political parties for encouraging or accepting defecting legislators.
  • As per the 1985 Act, a ‘defection’ by one-third of the elected members of a political party was considered a ‘merger’.
  • But the 91st Constitutional Amendment Act, 2003, changed this and now at least two-thirds of the members of a party have to be in favour of a “merger” for it to have validity in the eyes of the law.
  • The members disqualified under the law can stand for elections from any political party for a seat in the same House.
  • The decision on questions as to disqualification on ground of defection are referred to the Chairman or the Speaker of such House, which is subject to ‘Judicial review’.
  • However, the law does not provide a time-frame within which the presiding officer has to decide a defection case.

Grounds of Disqualification:

  • If an elected member voluntarily gives up his membership of a political party.
  • If he votes or abstains from voting in such House contrary to any direction issued by his political party or anyone authorised to do so, without obtaining prior permission.
  • As a pre-condition for his disqualification, his abstention from voting should not be condoned by his party or the authorised person within 15 days of such incident.
  • If any independently elected member joins any political party.
  • If any nominated member joins any political party after the expiry of six months.

 

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