The Limits of Anti-Defection

  1. The recent political crisis in Karnataka has demonstrated the ways in which the anti-defection law can be used and abused.
  2. The anti-defection law is contained in the 10th Schedule of the Constitution. The 10th Schedule was inserted to the Constitution through the 52nd Constitutional (Amendment) Act, 1985. The anti-defection law is based on the recommendations of the Y B Chavan committee.
  3. The amendment by which the Tenth Schedule was inserted in the Constitution did 3 things: it made legislators liable to be penalised for their conduct both inside and outside (speeches etc.) the legislature, b) it protected legislators from disqualification in cases where there was a split (with 1/3rd of members splitting) or merger (with 2/3rds of members merging) of a legislature party with another political party and c) it made the Presiding Officer of the concerned legislature the sole arbiter of defection proceedings.
  4. The purpose of the anti-defection law is to curb political defection by the legislators. The law applies to both Parliament and state assemblies. It lays down the process by which legislators may be disqualified on grounds of defection.
  5. There are two grounds on which a member of a legislature can be disqualified: a) if he/she voluntarily gives up the membership of his/her party and b) if a legislator votes in the House against the direction of his/her party and his/her action is not condoned by his party.
  6. In 2003 the anti-defection law was amended to delete the one-third split provision which offered protection to defectors was deleted.
  7.  The anti-defection law has had its loopholes and has been abused. For example, the n law does not specify a timeframe for Speakers to decide on defection proceedings. When the politics demanded, Speakers were either quick to pass judgment on defection proceedings or delayed acting on them for years on end.