The Anti-Defection Act, 1985
Posted on 9 July, 2023 by Shaurya Singh
During my internship at Singh's Law Office under the guidance of Adv. V K Singh and Adv. Amogh Mund, I learned that an essential law for the Indian political system is the Anti-Defection Act, of 1985. It aims to stop the rapidly expanding tendency of political defections by banning elected members of legislative bodies from joining other groups or parties, protecting the integrity of the Indian people and their representatives. This Act was a response to the rising number of instances during that period when legislators would change their allegiances to curry favor with their respective political parties.
It made such defections unlawful and imposed penalties on those who violated them in an effort to stop them. The Act also increased the Speaker of the House's authority, particularly in matters involving whether to allow or forbid a Member of Parliament from changing parties. They must determine whether defection is legitimate and, if necessary, take appropriate action, such as dissolving a party. Any decision made must be in the best interests of the Indian people and not in the interests of any one group or political party, according to the Speaker.
Power of the Speaker
According to the Anti-Defection Act, of 1985 any elected official who fails to follow the party whip and casts a vote opposing the party line will be punished under this Act. Determining whether a defection has occurred is up to the Speaker of the House or state legislature.
The Act's provisions state that any elected official who voluntarily renounces his party affiliation or refuses to cast a ballot in the House in defiance of a directive issued by his party is ineligible to serve in the House. Such cases may be decided by the Speaker or Chairman, as applicable. The Speaker is in charge of making sure that the procedures and rules for disqualification are followed and that no member is unjustly excluded. The Speaker also has the power to provide the proper orders respecting the members when a political party is dissolved or combined with another to avert disqualification.
If the Speaker discovers a defection, he or she may send the matter to the Electoral Commission, which will then decide whether or not the defection was lawful. The Electoral Commission's judgment is final and cannot be contested.
The Rajiv Government at the time passed the Anti-Defection Act in 1985 to protect the integrity of the legislative branch and enhance India's political institutions. Yet, the political situation has demonstrated that the Act's goals have not been met. Even though wholesale defections were made legal by the Act, retail defections remained illegal, which allowed for unethical floor-crossing.
Before their tenure in office is up, members of parliament cannot be dismissed or declared ineligible. Nonetheless, this does not stop Lok Sabha members from defecting from their party and joining another organization before the end of their term. To join a party that better serves their political interests, several members have been obliged to quit the one in which they were elected. Voters nationwide who have become accustomed to electing politicians who are members of the same political party are extremely frustrated by this circumstance.
As a result, there is a growing movement in favor of doing away with the practice of preventing members of parliament from holding public office before their mandates are up and various changes to end the practice of defections from public offices have been enacted in recent years.
One of the most popular instances is when Mr. Chandra Shekhar and his party of 61 MPs left the Janata Dal to topple the V.P. Singh government. Although this was a widespread defection, the Janata Dal classified it as a "split" rather than a political defection because the group made up one-third of the original party's Lok Sabha strength. Implementing the Anti-Defection Act's 1/3 principle led to the establishment of a minority Janata Dal government with support from Congress.
Adv. Amogh Mund explained that the Anti-Defection Act has once again disgraced India's democracy and the 52nd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1985, and failed to fulfill its goal of ensuring government stability at the Center and in the States of the Indian Union.
The political situation has exposed the Anti-Defection Law's flaws and validated the reservations and skepticism voiced at the time of its passage regarding its usefulness and the Speaker's role in handling situations under the Act's scope.
Therefore, the Act must be reviewed and revised to accomplish it's intended purpose.
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