Why is it in the news?
- The Maharashtra Assembly Speaker has declined to disqualify MLAs belonging to the factions led by Eknath Shinde and Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray.
|· Defection refers to the transfer of allegiance by a legislator from one political party to another, leading to political instability.
· Traditionally known as ‘floor crossing,’ it has historical roots in the British House of Commons.
· Defections have been a source of political instability in India, shifting focus from governance to governments.
· The Chavan Committee Report (1969) highlighted instances of party allegiance changes, leading to the introduction of the Anti-Defection Law (ADL) through the 52nd Constitutional Amendment in 1985.
Anti-Defection Law (ADL)
- Formulated to bring stability by curbing legislators’ tendency to switch party loyalties.
- Addresses defection scenarios like voluntarily giving up party membership or violating party whip instructions.
- Allows MPs/MLAs to merge with another party, provided two-thirds of legislators support the merger.
- Nominated legislators can join a party within six months of appointment.
- Violation leads to disqualification, with the deciding authority being the Presiding Officer (Speaker/Chairman).
Significance of ADL:
- Aims to bring stability and discourage party-switching, promoting party discipline.
- Ensures loyalty to party policies and manifestos, maintaining elected representatives’ accountability.
Criticisms of ADL:
- Critics argue that it limits independent action, binding legislators to official party positions.
- Reduces accountability to Parliament and constituents.
- Defections due to the lure of office are common.
- Ambiguities in interpreting split scenarios, especially in recent cases in states like Maharashtra.
Suggestions by Committees on ADL:
|Dinesh Goswami Committee (1990)
|– Disqualification limited to cases where a member voluntarily gives up party membership.
|– Disqualification for abstaining or voting against party whip in a confidence or no-confidence motion.
|– Disqualification decision by President/Governor on Election Commission’s advice.
|Law Commission (170th Report, 1999)
|– Delete provisions exempting splits and mergers from disqualification.
|– Treat pre-poll electoral fronts as political parties under the anti-defection law.
|– Political parties to limit the issuance of whips to instances when the government is in danger.
|Constitution Review Commission (2002)
|– Bar defectors from holding public office or remunerative political posts for the remaining term.
|– Treat the vote cast by a defector to topple a government as invalid.
|– Decisions under the Tenth Schedule to be made by the President/Governor on the binding advice of the Election Commission.
|Related SC Judgment:
· Kihoto Hollohan vs Zachillhu (1992): SC upheld ADL’s validity, subjecting the Speaker’s order to judicial review on limited grounds.
- While ADL has brought some stability, it has loopholes.
- The apex court should review the Tenth Schedule to prevent further erosion of democracy.