The Anti-Defection Law (ADL) has been violated and misinterpreted time and again. Suggest measures to strengthen the Anti-Defection Law.
The Anti-Defection Laws (1985) seeks to disqualify legislators who vote against party directives in the legislature, or voluntarily give up party membership.
Violations of Anti-Defection Law:
- The Speakers of various legislative assemblies have played a partisan role when it comes to acting or defections, e.g. after 2014 elections, large scale defections in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh went unpunished.
- The absence of a time limit for the Speaker to decide on disqualification petitions under ADL has aided defection.
- While the ADL exempts two thirds of a political party’s members with another party, the legislators have taken it to imply support of 2/3rd of legislators without formal merger of the two political parties concerned, e.g. in Goa, more than 2/3rd of the opposition defected (2019).
- In some cases, legislators who have not acted against the party or given up membership are disqualified due to pressure applied on the speaker by ruling parties.
However, the ADL has largely brought political stability to the Indian parliamentary system. It is a far cry from rampant defections of the 1970s and 1980s.
Strengthening of ADL:
- The disqualification petitions can be decided on by the President, instead of the speakers.
- If there is no scope to empower the President to rule on defections, a time limit should be introduced for deciding or petitions.
- Making the Speaker’s post non-partisan –
- The Speaker should be required to compulsorily resign from party membership, as in the UK.
- The speaker should be guaranteed re-election till he wishes, no recognized political party should file a candidate against him.
- The speaker should be directly promoted to the Rajya Sabha on the end of tenure, to reduce risk of him acting in a partisan manner to secure higher political posts in the future.
Building a legislative consensus on changes to the anti-defection law is imperative to make it more efficient and effective.