Anti Defection Law

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As the government of Rajasthan has presented disqualification petitions against 19 MP’s, including Sachin Pilot, the Anti Defection Law has once again come to occupy a central place in political discourse.

Aaya Ram Gaya Ram was a phrase that became popular in Indian politics after an MP for Haryana Gaya Lal changed parties three times in the same day in 1967. The Anti Defection Law looks for preventing such defections of the politics which can be due to the reward of the administration or other similar considerations.

Recently, the Supreme Court called for the imminent dismissal of those who violate the Anti Defection Law. The Court advised Parliament to reconsider the powers of the President. The Supreme Court has suggested the creation of an independent authority or body to make decisions on the disqualification of MP’s and MLA’s. In 1985, the 52nd Constitutional Amendment Law attempted to curb the tendency to defect. By virtue of this, four articles 101, 102, 190 and 191 of the Constitution were amended and, under this law, the Tenth Schedule was inserted into the Constitution.

The Tenth Schedule establishes the process by which the legislators can be disqualified on grounds of defection by the Presiding Officer of a legislature on the basis of a petition from any other member of the house. A legislator is deemed to have defected if he voluntarily renounces his party’s membership or if he disobeys the directives of the party leadership during a vote. This implies that a legislator who challenges (abstaining or voting against) the party whip on any issue may lose his membership in the House. This Law can be applied to both State Assemblies and the Parliament.

In July 2019, the Speaker of the Karnataka Assembly, K R Ramesh Kumar, disqualified 17 MLA’s for the entire term of the current 15th Assembly. These include 14 from Congress and three from JDS until the end of the current term, ie. until 2023. The speaker said his action was based on petitions presented by Congress and the JDS to disqualify rebel MLA’s, who had also submitted resignations as members of the Assembly and were absent during the trust vote of confidence requested by former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy. The move, seen as harsh and unprecedented, will likely be challenged by some disqualified legislators in Court, who argue it is against the law. Experts believe that it runs counter to the latest Bombay High Court judgment in the Goa Assembly case, in which the High Court ruled that the Tenth Schedule challenge cannot preclude a legislator going back to the people and be re-elected during the current term of Assembly.