POLITY

Anti-Defection Law

Anti-Defection Law

“Aaya Ram, Gaya Ram” popular phrase in Indian politics originating after Haryana MLA Gaya Lal changed parties thrice in the same day (1967).


Basics – What is Defection?

  • Defection refers to a transfer of loyalty with respect to either politics, sports, religion,  any other rival faction etc.

  • In politics specifically, a defector is someone who gives up affiliation or allegiance to one state in exchange for allegiance to another.
    Change of party affiliation by members of legislature, elected politicians – they abandon and exchange their duty and allegiance.

  • Elections ensure that people assert opinions – therefore, political defection undermines the will of the people.

  • Anti-defection  is codified as law in mostly South Asian and African countries (India, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Kenya, South Africa).

  • The expression ‘Aaya Ram, Gaya Ram’ points to frequent turn-coating, changing of parties and political horse trading by elected candidates/politicians/political parties in Indian politics.
    POI – Gaya Lal was a Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) from Pataudi Vidhan Sabha constituency of Haryana who won in 1967 as an independent candidate. He is infamous for being the origin of the expression ‘Aaya Ram Gaya Ram’.
    Joined Indian National Congress (INC) on winning;
    Politically defected to the United Front (UF);
    Then counter defected back to INC, and then counter-counter-defected within nine hours to United Front again.
    Haryana is the first State to reward a defector – Rao Birender Singh (Congress defector) with Chief Ministership in 1967.
    Frequent floor crossing and political horse trading becoming rampant in Haryana post 1967 led to the dissolution of the Haryana Legislative Assembly.


The Need for Anti-defection Law

  • Anti-defection law is needed in order to curb political corruption, and defection by legislators, which violates the mandate of the people.

  • Defection by elected representatives puts legislative programmes of the government in jeopardy.

  • Elections stand unsuccessful due to irresponsible and disloyal Members of Parliament.
    POI – Compelling statistics –
    Congress (INC) – sole beneficiary of defections giving it a strong hold of power – gained 419 legislators between 1957-1967.
    Out of 3500 elected members, 550 defections from parent parties in 1967 election; some politicians defected multiple times.
    Out of 4000 elected politicians, 2000 cases of defection/counter defection between 1967-1972.
    116 of 210 ministers were defectors.
    50% of legislators and 50.5% of MLAs defected at least once.
    Morarji Desai’s government (which was the first non-Congress government) fell out of power during 1977-79 by defection of a whopping 76 Members of Parliament.
    To describe mass defections in favour of party in power (mostly INC) Virendra Patil, then Chief Minister of Karnataka – called this phenomenon a
    goldrush.

Current Affairs POI – In July 2019, two-thirds of Congress Legislative Party resigned and officially joined ruling BJP the following day.


Timeline of Anti-defection Law



Anti-Defection Law

Tenth Schedule – Anti-defection Law

  • Introduced via Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, the main objective being to combat the evil of political defections.

  • Aims at prevention of political horse trading, shifting of parties by elected politicians due to personal motives.

  • Defines defection as to abandon a position or association, often to join an opposing group.

  • This law applies to Parliament as well as State assemblies.

  • Defines process by which –
    legislators may be disqualified on grounds of defection by the Presiding Officer of legislature based on petition by any other member of the House.

  • Grounds for disqualification are as follows –
    If an elected member gives up his membership of a political party voluntarily.
    If he votes or abstains from voting in the House, contrary to any direction issued by his political party.
    If any member who is independently elected joins any party.
    If any nominated member joins any political party after the end of 6 months.
    The decision on disqualification questions on the ground of defection is referred to the Speaker or the Chairman of the House, and his/her decision is final.
    All proceedings in relation to disqualification under this Schedule are considered to be proceedings in Parliament or the Legislature of a state as is the case.

  • Questions about disqualification due to defection are to be decided by the Presiding Officer of the House; this decision is subject to Judicial Review.


Exceptions to the Rule

The Anti-defection Law allows legislators to change their political parties in certain circumstances without facing risk of disqualification.

  • If at least two-thirds of a party’s legislators are in favour of a merger, the party may merge with/into another party.
    Members may either choose to join the new party or stay with original party, without facing charges of defection.

  • Speaker, Chairman and Deputy-Chairman of various legislative Houses are exempted from the law.


Positives of ADL

  • Promotes accountability – preventing shift of party allegiance ensures that elected candidates will remain loyal to their party, and the people who gave them their vote.

  • Government finds stability with drop in defection.

  • Does not provide stability, but it also has the potential to decrease corrupt practices in politics.

  • Promotes healthy democratic and political practices because it allows free movement and mergers between parties as long as it is a majority decision (at least two-thirds.)


Challenges and Disadvantages

  • While increasing stability, it curbs the Legislator’s freedom, making him/her slave to party whips.

  • No specified timeframe/deadline given to the Presiding Officer when it comes to making decision on cases of defection.
    Defectors may continue in office;
    Defection from smaller parties may go unnoticed.

  • Speaker has complete discretion (Article 190 (3)); he may reject resignations.

  • The Anti-defection Law has not succeeded in completely preventing political horse trading, as its loopholes are identified.

  • Some loopholes are listed below:
    Mass defection method is used to go around the Tenth Schedule.
    Defection has now shifted ‘from Retail to Wholesale.’
    Resignation is not defined as a ground for disqualification.


Suggestions for Reforms to ADL

Reforms to the Anti-defection Law have been suggested by various bodies including the Law Commission, Election Commission, NCRWC, Dinesh Goswami Committee on electpral reforms and the Halim Committee on Anti-defection Law.


Supreme Court Judgements such as Kihoto Zollohan case and the Ravi Naik case paved the way for reforms to the Anti Defection Law.


  • ECI Recommendation [also given by National Commission to review the working of the constitution (NCRWC)] –
    Decision to disqualify should be made by the President of India (in case of MPs) and the Governor of States (in case of MLAs) on binding advice from Election Commission rather than being made by the Presiding Officer of the House.

  • According to the 170th report of the Law Commission –
    Deletion of provisions that exempt splits/mergers from disqualification.
    Pre-poll electoral fronts should be treated as political parties under anti-defection.
    Parties should limit issuance of whips to instances only when the government is in danger.

  • Dinesh Goswami Committee on Electoral Reforms recommends –
    Disqualification should be limited to the following cases:
    When a member voluntarily gives party membership up;
    When a member abstains from voting/ votes contrary to the party whip in a motion of vote of confidence or motion of no-confidence.
    Political Parties should issue whips only when Government’s stability is in danger.

  • Halim Committee on Anti-Defection law (1988) recommends –
    The words ‘voluntarily giving up membership of a political party’ must be comprehensively defined.
    Restrictions such as prohibition on joining another party, holding offices in the government should be imposed on expelled members.

Anti-Defection Law
Anti-Defection Law
Anti-Defection Law