An anti-defection law is a legislative framework intended to dissuade elected officials from changing political parties while they are still in office which aims to advance political stability by preventing party switching from being used to manipulate legislative procedures.
Most of the Indians became familiar with the concept of “defection” and the Anti-Defection Law in India as a result of the political crises that occurred in Maharashtra in 2022. A group of the Shiv Sena led by Eknath Shinde defected against Uddhav Thackeray, the party’s then-chief minister, in June 2022. With the backing of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the rebels sought to create a government, claiming to be the “real” Shiv Sena. The Maharashtra Assembly Speaker received petitions from the Thackeray-led Shiv Sena group asking for the dissident MLAs’ disqualification in accordance with the anti-defection laws included in the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution. The purpose of this article is to make an effort to comprehend the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution as well as the reasoning that went into creating it.
The Anti-Defection Act was enacted with the purpose of preventing members of Congress from switching political affiliations in order to undermine the authority of the government.
Initially, the Constitution of India did not include any provisions for floor crossing, desertion, or any other aspect of political parties in general. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the concept of an ‘anti-defection’ law was ever brought up.
The year 1962 was the year that saw the largest number of defections with approximately 142 MPs and 1900 MLAs committing defection. This also resulted in the birth of a well-known catchphrase known as “Aaya Ram, Gaya Ram,” which came into use when Gaya Lal, a member of the Legislative Assembly of Haryana, changed his party affiliation three times in the span of a single day.
The widespread betrayals that occurred in the 1960s and, in particular, in 1967, led to the government being obliged to issue a resolution condemning the practise. Additionally, the Union Government established a committee in 1967, with Shri. Y.B. Chavan serving as its chairman, in order to deal with the increasing number of instances of floor-crossing. The members of this committee included notable figures such as M.C. Setalvad, Jayaprakash Narayan, H.N. Kunzru, M. Kumaramangalam, and Madhu Limaye. The recommendations and suggestions made by each member of this committee were varied and catered to the requirements of parties that adhered to a variety of ideologies.
The Committee, which was led by Shri. Y.B Chavan, submitted its report in 1968; however, this report was forwarded to a Joint Committee by the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, for further consideration; as a result, the first effort to adopt an “Anti-Defection Bill” was failed.
In India’s Anti-Defection Law and the history of Indian Politics more generally, the years 1977 to 1980 were a particularly pivotal and crucial time period. The first ever Non-Congress Government of India, led by Shri. Morarji Desai, ran into a political crisis and eventually fell when approximately 76 of its Members of Parliament defected and switched their sides.
An attempt was made in 1985, in the form of the Constitution (Forty Eighth Amendment) Bill. The Central Government led by Rajiv Gandhi, brought this bill with an aim to tackle the issue of defections, which was a danger to the political stability and integrity of the country. The measure was ultimately approved by the legislature in 1985, and its implementation was set for the first of the following month. The 52nd Constitutional Amendment, which took place in 1985, was responsible for adding the Tenth Schedule to the Constitution of India. This amendment is also often known as the “Anti Defection Law.”
The problem of floor-crossing, also known as defection, was the motivation for the addition of the tenth schedule. It was intended to be a measure that would penalize members of parliament and legislative assembly who had been elected under the symbol of a certain party but had switched parties after being elected to those positions.
If a legislator changes political parties after being elected to office under the banner of a particular party, the law states that he or she may be disqualified from serving in that capacity.
Legislators who lose their seats because they switch allegiance to a different political party are free to run for office under the banner of any political organization of their choosing, giving them the opportunity to serve in any legislative body.
A group of lawmakers from one party may join or merge with another party if this statute is followed, since it allows for such a move. According to the law that was in effect in 1985, the act of transferring political parties by about one third of the lawmakers belonging to a political party was regarded a “merger” rather than a “defection.”
According to the 91st Amendment Act that was passed in 2003, in order for merger’ to not be labelled a ‘defection,’ at least two thirds of the elected members of a given party are required to express their approval for it.
The authority to make decisions on “defection” concerns rests with the “chairman” or “speaker” of the house, and such decisions would be subject to the purview of judicial review if they were challenged in court.
The anti-defection statute has had a number of crucial consequences, one of which is the hollowing out of our legislatures. There have been several incidences of betrayal, as well as situations in which a government was brought down as a direct result of betrayal.
In 2017, Tamil Nadu was the location of one of these incidents that took place. Something quite similar took place in Goa, were more than two-thirds of the elected officials of the governing party ‘merged’ with one of the opposition parties (BJP).
Recent years have seen Maharashtra get mired in a serious political crisis, which was precipitated by the decision of some elected members of the Shiva Sena to withdraw their support from the coalition government that was in power at that time period. The Anti-Defection statute was called into question as a direct result of this action taken by the renegade MLAs. The fact that the MLAs switched allegiances meant that their move was categorized as a “merger,” rather than a “defection,” since they represented more than two thirds of the party’s strength in the assembly.
Disqualification is a potential outcome for members of ideological organisations under the anti-defection statute if they ignore the whip or vote against the party in a motion of no confidence.9 The anti-defection legislation has shown to be fairly ineffectual in addressing the problem of defection, which plays a significant role in the politically unstable state of the nation.
A defection is seen as an act of disdain against the mandate that was given by the people who live in the nation. The Anti-Defection Law, in general, has elevated the legislator’s obligation and accountability to the political party they belong to to a level that is higher than their responsibility and accountability to the country’s inhabitants.
The Anti-Defection legislation assigns the ultimate ability to rule on the topics of disqualifications and defection to the speaker or Chairperson of a parliament or a legislative assembly; nevertheless, the law does not define the time range that the speaker must keep in mind. This may occasionally result in an unnecessary delay in the decision-making process, and it also has the potential to lead to a choice that is biassed.
Legislators and politicians in general are more likely to remain loyal to their own party when there is an anti-defection statute in place because it encourages political honesty. A rule that punishes members of parliament and legislative assemblies who were elected under the symbol of a certain party but switch their parties after being elected is an example of a piece of legislation known as an anti-defection law. This kind of regulation was enacted in an effort to ensure that the election mandate of the country’s population is respected. Even after the Tenth Schedule was implemented, there have been several instances of betrayal, as well as incidents in which a government has fallen owing to betrayal.