[Answered] “Tenth Schedule of the Indian Constitution has failed to prevent defections.” Analyse.

Demand of the question
Introduction. Introduce with mention of 52nd amendment act.
Body. 10th schedule provisions. Discuss issues of 10th schedule.
Conclusion. Way forward.

The anti-defection law was passed in 1985 through the 52nd Constitutional Amendment Act. It added the Tenth Schedule to the Indian Constitution. The law was framed with the intent of combating the evil of political defections. Unfortunately it has failed to do so.

Provisions for Disqualification in 10th schedule:

  1. Members of a Political Party: A member of parliament or state legislature can be disqualified on the following grounds:
    • When voluntarily resign from his party or disobey the directives of the party leadership on a vote.
    • When does not vote/abstains as per party’s whip. However, if the member has taken prior permission from the party within 15 days from such voting or abstention, the member shall not be disqualified.
  2. Independent Members: If a member has been elected as “Independent”, he/she would be disqualified on joining a political party.
  3. Nominated Members: Nominated members who were not members of a party could choose to join a party within six months. After 6 months on joining a political party member will be disqualified.

How 10th schedule has failed to prevent defections?

  1. Open to interpretation: The law is open to considerable interpretation, and many times the bias of the Speaker leads to confusion, often resulting in litigation.
  2. Unbridled power to speakers: 52nd Amendment act introduced the provision that questions of disqualification on ground of defection shall be decided by chairmen and speakers of the legislative bodies. The intention was to have speedier adjudicative processes under the Tenth Schedule. This has led to unchecked powers to speaker.
  3. New mode of defections: Defections numbering more than one-third of the party’s strength were considered to be legal. Earlier, the ‘aaya Ram, gaya Ram‘ phenomenon had created an alarming level of political instability. Now, a new phenomenon is at play. MLAs belonging to defeated parties have started migrating in large number to winning parties. This means parties that lose elections are all but wiped out of legislative bodies. The mass exodus of MLAs to victorious parties shows that they have no respect for the anti-defection law.
  4. Not able to prevent defections: There have been instances where after the declaration of election results, winning candidates have resigned from their membership of the House as well as the party from which they got elected and immediatel joined the political party which has formed the government. They again contest from that political party, which appears to be a fraud and goes against the spirit of the democracy and 52nd constitutional amendment.

Some issues related to anti-defection law:

  1. Loss of independence: Anti-defection has led to loss of independence of an average legislator.
  2. Reduced accountability: It prevents parliamentarians from changing parties that has led to reduced the accountability of the government to Parliament.
  3. Against dissent: The law prevent dissent against party policies. Thus, it interferes with the member’s freedom of speech and expression.
  4. No respite in case kept pending: A party aggrieved by the decision of the presiding office may approach the court. However, if the presiding officer does not dispose the matter and keeps it pending, the aggrieved fails to seek the aid of court.
  5. Puppet of political party: It destroys the spirit of liberty and lead to the practice of puppetry within the party system in a parliamentary democracy.
  6. Prevent discussions and debates: It prevent members to speak up their mind, thus leading to less discussions and lesser healthy debates and solutions in parliament.
  7. No incentives: Due to lack of accountability and limit on speech and expression MPs/MLAs find no incentives to research and understand policies and to find solutions to various issues.

Anti-defection law aimed at bringing down the political defect but due to ever increasing political dishonesty and corruption this law never evolved properly. Politicians found loopholes in this law and used it for their own benefit. It is high time to revisit the issue to combat the menace of corruption and defection which has eroded the values of democracy. Anti-defection law should be amended to prevent mass defections and should be flexible to allow genuine dissent.

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