Anti-Defection Law in Present Times: Daily Current Affairs

Relevance: GS 2 Governance, Constitution and its laws

Keywords: 52nd Amendment Act 1985, Defection ,10th Schedule, dissent, freedom of speech, parliamentary democracy

Why in News:

  • The recent defection of 12 of the 17 Congress MLAs in Meghalaya, led by former chief minister Mukul Sangma, marks the erosion of the Congress in yet another state.
  • The party will lose the position of main opposition in Meghalaya once these MLAs join the Trinamool Congress.
  • Also, previously Jignesh Mewani, an independent MLA from Gujarat, has said he has joined the Congress “in spirit” as he could not formally do so, having been elected as an independent.

About Anti-Defection Law:

  • The Anti-Defection Law under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution punishes MPs/ MLAs for defecting from their party by taking away their membership of the legislature.
  • It gives the Speaker of the legislature the power to decide the outcome of defection proceedings.
  • It was added to the Constitution through the Fifty-Second (Amendment) Act, 1985.
  • The law applies to both Parliament and state assemblies.

Cases considered under the anti-defection law:

The law covers three scenarios with respect to shifting of political parties by an MP or an MLA.

  • Voluntary give-up: When a member elected on the ticket of a political party “voluntarily gives up” membership of such a party or votes in the House against the wishes of the party. Such persons lose his seat.
  • Independent members: When a legislator who has won his or her seat as an independent candidate joins a political party after the election.
    • In both these instances, the legislator loses the seat in the legislature on changing (or joining) a party.
  • Nominated MPs: In such case, the law gives them six months to join a political party, after being nominated.
    • If they join a party after such time, they stand to lose their seat in the House.


  • Loss of independence: Anti-defection has led to loss of independence of an average legislator.
  • Reduced accountability: It prevents parliamentarians from changing parties that has led to reduce the accountability of the government to Parliament.
  • Against dissent: The law prevent dissent against party policies. Thus, it interferes with the member’s freedom of speech and expression.
  • Unbridled power to presiding officer: The defection cases are decided by the presiding officer of the House concerned; whereas, in other matters of disqualification, decision making power rests with the President or the Governor of State. The impartiality of presiding officer is not always guaranteed.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Way forward

  • Parliament may seriously consider a Constitutional amendment to bring in a permanent Tribunal for dealing with defection cases.
  • Last year, the Supreme Court held that ideally Speakers should take a decision on a defection petition within three months.
  • It is suggested that a scheme should be brought wherein Speakers should renounce all political affiliations, membership, and activity once they have been elected.
  • We can learn from the UK model. In practice, once elected, the Speaker gives up all-partisan affiliation, as in other Parliaments of British tradition.
  • He/she remains in office until retirement, even though the majority may change and does not express any political views during debates.


Prelims Question:

Q. Which of the following statements regarding the implementation of anti-defection law are included in the criteria?

  1. If an elected member voluntarily gives up his membership of a political party
  2. If an elected member votes or abstains from voting in such House contrary to any direction issued by his political party or anyone authorized to do so, without obtaining any prior permission

a. Only 1

b. Only 2

c. Both 1 and 2

d. Neither 1 nor 2

Ans. c

Explanation: Both the options stated above are correct.

Mains Question:

Q. Anti-Defection Law has been used as a tool for political maneuvering, in this context explain anti-defection law and concerns related to it in the present times?