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Disqualification Of MLAs

Why is it in the news?

  • Recently, the Himachal Pradesh Assembly Speaker disqualified six MLAs of the ruling Congress under the anti-defection law (Tenth Schedule).
  • The disqualification was based on the MLAs defying the party whip during crucial voting sessions.

About Anti-Defection Law (Tenth Schedule)

  • The Tenth Schedule, introduced in 1985 through the 52nd constitutional amendment, contains provisions against defection.
  • It states that a member of a House who voluntarily gives up membership of their political party or votes against the party’s instructions faces disqualification.
  • The concept of a “whip” is crucial, wherein party instructions regarding voting must be followed.
  • However, the Tenth Schedule is not applicable to Rajya Sabha elections, as clarified by the Election Commission in 2017.
Cross-Voting in Rajya Sabha

·       The Rajya Sabha elections in the States of Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka witnessed cross-voting by MLAs belonging to different parties.

·       This has once again raised concerns about the sanctity of the election process.


·       Rajya Sabha representatives are elected indirectly by members of State Legislative Assemblies as per Article 80 of the Constitution.

·       Historically, Rajya Sabha elections were largely uncontested until the June 1998 elections in Maharashtra, which saw cross-voting and resulted in the loss of a Congress party candidate.

·       Until 1998, candidates nominated by parties according to their strength in the Assembly were usually elected unopposed.

Amendment to Electoral Laws

·       In 2003, an amendment to the Representation of the People Act, 1951 introduced the open ballot system for Rajya Sabha elections.

·       Under this system, MLAs of political parties must show their ballot paper to the authorized party agent. However, the independent MLAs are prohibited from showing their ballots to anyone.

·       The amendment aimed to curb instances of cross-voting by ensuring transparency in the voting process.

Court Rulings

·       The Supreme Court, in the case of Kuldip Nayar versus Union of India (2006), upheld the open ballot system for Rajya Sabha elections, emphasizing transparency.

·       The court ruled that voting against the party’s candidate does not lead to disqualification under the Tenth Schedule but may result in disciplinary action.

·       The conduct of a member both inside and outside the House is considered for defection, as ruled in cases like Ravi S. Naik and Sanjay Bandekar versus Union of India (1994).

Way Forward

·       Uphold Principles of Free and Fair Elections: Prioritize the maintenance of free and fair electoral processes, emphasizing transparency and integrity in all aspects of voting, including Rajya Sabha elections.

·       Address Challenges of Cross-Voting: Acknowledge the detrimental impact of cross-voting on the electoral system’s integrity and effectiveness, necessitating proactive measures to mitigate such practices.

·       Explore Legal Remedies: Consider legal avenues, such as suo moto Public Interest Litigation (PIL), to address the issue of cross-voting in Rajya Sabha elections, reflecting a commitment to upholding democratic values.

·       Promote Party Loyalty and Accountability: Encourage adherence to party discipline and loyalty among elected representatives, fostering accountability and discouraging opportunistic voting practices that undermine democratic principles.


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