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Understanding the Tenth Schedule

By Amigos IAS

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)

About:

  • 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:

 

Committee/CommissionRecommendations
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.
Election Commission– 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.

 

Conclusion

  • While ADL has brought some stability, it has loopholes.
  • The apex court should review the Tenth Schedule to prevent further erosion of democracy.

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