systemhalted by Palak Mathur

Reforms in Anti-Defection Laws - Recommendations of Various Committees and Commissions

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The Anti-Defection Law was passed in 1985 through the 52nd Amendment to the Constitution, which added the Tenth Schedule to the Indian Constitution. The main intent of the law was to combat “the evil of political defections”. There are several issues in relation to the working of this law which need to be discussed. Does the law, while deterring defections, also lead to suppression of healthy intra-party debate and dissent? Does it restrict representatives from voicing the concerns of their voters in opposition to the official party position? Should the decision on defections be judged by the Speaker who is usually a member of the ruling party or coalition, or should it be decided by an external neutral body such as the Election Commission? Some of the recommendations are listed below:-

Dinesh Goswami Committee on electoral reforms (1990)

  • Disqualification should be limited to cases where
    1.  a member voluntarily gives up the membership of his political party
    2. a member abstains from voting, or votes contrary to the party whip in a motion of vote of confidence or motion of no-confidence.
  • The issue of disqualification should be decided by the President/ Governor on the advice of the Election Commission.

Halim Committee on anti-defection law (1998)

  • The words ‘voluntarily giving up membership of a political party’ be comprehensively defined.
  • Restrictions like prohibition on joining another party or holding offices in the government be imposed on expelled members.
  • The term political party should be defined clearly.

Law Commission (170th Report, 1999)

  • Provisions which exempt splits and mergers from disqualification to be deleted
  • Pre-poll electoral fronts should be treated as political parties under anti-defection law.
  • Political parties should limit issuance of whips to instances only when the government is in danger.

Election Commission

  • Decisions under the Tenth Schedule should be made by the President/ Governor on the binding advice of the Election Commission.

Constitution Review Commission (2002)

  • Defectors should be barred from holding public office or any remunerative political post for the duration of the remaining term.
  • The vote cast by a defector to topple a government should be treated as invalid.