A case that scans the working of the anti-defection law

Source– The post is based on the article “A case that scans the working of the anti-defection law” published in The Hindu on 24th February 2023.

Syllabus: GS3- Parliament

Relevance: Issues related to political defections

News- SC of India is presently hearing a set of cases related to political events in Maharashtra last year, when a breakaway faction of Shiv Sena formed government.

What are some facts related to anti- defection laws?

The anti-defection law was introduced into the Constitution via the Tenth Schedule in 1985.

Its purpose was to check increasingly frequent floor crossing; lured by money, ministerial berths, threats.

The Tenth Schedule stipulates that if any legislator voted against the party whip, he or she would be disqualified from the house.

While on the one hand this empowered party leadership against the legislative backbench, and weakened the prospect of intra­party dissent.

How has the 10th schedule worked in recent times?

The working of the Tenth Schedule has been patchy. In the last few years, there have been innumerable instances of mid-term toppling of government after a set of the ruling party or coalition’s own members turn against it.

This is power politics and not the expression of intra­party dissent. It is evident from the well-documented rise of “resort politics”.

Indeed, politicians have adopted various strategies to avoid the provisions of anti-defection law.  Recent examples involve mass resignations instead of defections to force a fresh election. There have been partisan actions by State Governors with respect to swearing in ceremonies and the timing of floor tests, and equally partisan actions by Speakers in refusing to decide disqualification petitions.

Why does the role of the Supreme Court become crucial in such cases?

Such cases place the Court in a difficult position.

The court has to adjudicate the actions of a number of constitutional functionaries: Governors, Speakers, legislative party leaders, elected representatives.

But the Court does not have the liberty of presuming dishonesty. It must maintain an institutional arm’s length from the political actors, and adjudicate according to legalities.

Why the role of SC in case of 10th schedule being questioned?

In recent years the Supreme Court has given multiple substantive judgments on anti-defection. But, the toppling of governments remains as frequent as ever.

Politicians find loopholes in Supreme Court judgments and Tenth Schedule. But, Some of these loopholes were easily foreseeable at the time. They were not addressed by the Court.

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