The anti-defection law has been singularly responsible for stifling debate in our Parliament and state legislatures. For example, approximately 250 Members of Parliament (MPs) in the Lok Sabha have declared their profession as farmers. They are from different political parties and represent people across the country. During the debate on the three farm bills, they could not support or oppose these bills based on their knowledge and experience of the agricultural sector. (Mohd Zakir/HT Archive)
The anti-defection law has been singularly responsible for stifling debate in our Parliament and state legislatures. For example, approximately 250 Members of Parliament (MPs) in the Lok Sabha have declared their profession as farmers. They are from different political parties and represent people across the country. During the debate on the three farm bills, they could not support or oppose these bills based on their knowledge and experience of the agricultural sector. (Mohd Zakir/HT Archive)

The anti-defection law continues to damage Indian democracy

With assembly elections three months away, the confidence motion’s outcome will be unimportant in Puducherry’s history. But the event will highlight the failure of the anti-defection law and raise an important question. How long will a law which continues to stifle debate in our legislatures continue to be a part of our Constitution?
By Chakshu Roy
UPDATED ON FEB 22, 2021 06:36 AM IST

The anti-defection law will fail again on Monday, this time in Puducherry. Chief Minister V Narayanasamy, who heads the Congress government, has been asked to prove its majority in the Vidhan Sabha. If past proceedings in other assemblies are any indication, the Puducherry Vidhan Sabha may witness unruly scenes. After the resignation of five Congress legislators, the Vidhan Sabha has 27 Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs). The Congress has the support of 13 MLAs, including the Speaker, who can only vote to break a tie. The opposition has 14 MLAs, including three MLAs nominated by the Centre.

Each side will try, till the end, to cajole or coerce MLAs to switch their political loyalty. Parliament made the anti-defection law to prevent such defections, and bring stability to governments and probity in politics. But in the last 35 years of its operation, the law has been entirely unsuccessful in its purpose. A law that does not accomplish its goal is not a new phenomenon in our country. But just because it fails in its purpose does not mean that it has not done any damage.

The anti-defection law has been singularly responsible for stifling debate in our Parliament and state legislatures. For example, approximately 250 Members of Parliament (MPs) in the Lok Sabha have declared their profession as farmers. They are from different political parties and represent people across the country. During the debate on the three farm bills, they could not support or oppose these bills based on their knowledge and experience of the agricultural sector.

The anti-defection law empowers political parties to force their views on MPs elected on their ticket. Any disagreement with the party can result in MPs losing their seat in the legislature. So they have a choice — voice the views of their parties and continue their parliamentary tenure or speak their mind and risk losing their seat in Parliament.

In the absence of an anti-defection law, MPs are free to vote based on their conscience on all issues. Just recently, in the United States, seven Republican senators voted to convict President Trump by breaking ranks with their party. Two months ago, in the United Kingdom, 55 MPs from Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s party voted against the government’s proposal for stricter lockdown restrictions.

The noble purpose of the anti-defection law is to bring stability to governments. So it stands to reason if it was limited to votes deciding the fate of a government. But the law allows political parties to disqualify legislators for voting against the party line inside the legislature and anti-party conduct outside it. The law is even applicable to Rajya Sabha MPs, who have no mandate to vote out a government.

Over the years, parties have also used the anti-defection law as part of a toolkit to weaken their opposition or topple a government. If a political party has a fewer number of legislators in a state, a larger party lures two-thirds of its MLAs into its fold — a practice permitted under the anti-defection law. If that fails, some MLAs are convinced to support a government and pressure is exerted on Vidhan Sabha Speakers to delay their disqualification. The trend these days is to convince legislators to resign.

After the Supreme Court ruled that the decisions of Speakers related to anti-defection come under judicial review, most of them get challenged before the courts. Sometimes, the court process takes time. Take the case of Sharad Yadav. The Rajya Sabha chairman decided his disqualification in three months in 2017, and the case is still pending before the Delhi high court. On other occasions, defection cases lie forgotten after the political crisis is averted. Last month, no one appeared on behalf of the dissident Rajasthan Congress MLAs who had approached the high court seeking protection from the anti-defection law.

With assembly elections three months away, the confidence motion’s outcome will be unimportant in Puducherry’s history. But the event will highlight the failure of the anti-defection law and raise an important question. How long will a law which continues to stifle debate in our legislatures continue to be a part of our Constitution?

Chakshu Roy is the head of legislative and civic engagement, PRS Legislative Research

The views expressed are personal

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
Without either the wealth and connections or profile of India’s film industry, Faruqui has shown more courage and almost zero cynicism. It doesn’t matter if you found his jokes funny or not — the jail-time he was subjected to was an abomination. (ANI)
Without either the wealth and connections or profile of India’s film industry, Faruqui has shown more courage and almost zero cynicism. It doesn’t matter if you found his jokes funny or not — the jail-time he was subjected to was an abomination. (ANI)

What Bollywood could learn from Munawar Faruqui

PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 06:09 PM IST
In this patchy, roller-coaster of a fortnight for India’s fundamental freedoms, some individuals have stood up, while others have failed our citizens
Close
The Digital Media Code has been formulated rather speciously, under Section 87 (1) & (2)(z) & (zg) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (as amended) (“IT Act”) i.e., the rule-making power. Rule-making or subordinate legislations are intended to carry out the purpose of an enactment. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
The Digital Media Code has been formulated rather speciously, under Section 87 (1) & (2)(z) & (zg) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (as amended) (“IT Act”) i.e., the rule-making power. Rule-making or subordinate legislations are intended to carry out the purpose of an enactment. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Creating a sustainable, legitimate digital regulatory regime

By NS Nappinai
PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 05:55 PM IST
The Digital Media Code fails to conform to, and, in fact, confounds, every settled constitutional mandate for lawmaking — the very obvious premise that law is to be made by the lawmakers i.e. the legislature and not the executive.
Close
Six decades after the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961, the continuing prevalence of dowry remains India’s national shame. The 2019 National Crime Records Bureau data tells us that a woman is subject to cruelty by her husband and in-laws every four minutes. (Reuters)
Six decades after the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961, the continuing prevalence of dowry remains India’s national shame. The 2019 National Crime Records Bureau data tells us that a woman is subject to cruelty by her husband and in-laws every four minutes. (Reuters)

Dowry remains India’s abiding shame

UPDATED ON MAR 05, 2021 05:47 PM IST
In the run-up to the International Women’s Day, it’s good to celebrate the undeniable gains on our road to gender equality. But it’s also worth remembering just how far we have to go — and how little has changed.
Close
Indian nationalism has always been inward-looking and focused on national development, which was always strongly imbued with welfare and social justice goals (Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)
Indian nationalism has always been inward-looking and focused on national development, which was always strongly imbued with welfare and social justice goals (Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)

In defence of rooted Indian nationalism

By Abhinav Prakash Singh
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 07:38 PM IST
Indian nationalism does not seek to conquer or colonise other countries. Instead, it supported national struggles in other countries under imperialist rule, emphasising sovereignty and democracy.
Close
A more careful look at how the BJP has risen in Bengal, and how the ruling TMC has sought to counteract its growth, is instructive in understanding the new dimensions of the BJP’s appeal and possible templates to defeat it (Samir Jana / Hindustan Times)
A more careful look at how the BJP has risen in Bengal, and how the ruling TMC has sought to counteract its growth, is instructive in understanding the new dimensions of the BJP’s appeal and possible templates to defeat it (Samir Jana / Hindustan Times)

Why the battle of Bengal matters

By Neelanjan Sircar
UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2021 07:38 PM IST
The BJP’s rise is remarkable. If the TMC still wins, it will offer a template on how to challenge a hegemon
Close
Ratings, of BARC type, are indispensable for the broadcast industry (Hindustan Times)
Ratings, of BARC type, are indispensable for the broadcast industry (Hindustan Times)

BARC plays a valuable role. Preserve it

By Paritosh Joshi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 07:38 PM IST
BARC has its problems. But the solution is unlikely to lie in denouncing it. It is still the best bet for hundreds of broadcasters to remain viable, and hundreds of millions of viewers to enjoy the fruits of their exertion
Close
There have been major state-level differences in the burden and mortality from Covid-19. Deploy vaccines accordingly and prioritise affected areas (Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)
There have been major state-level differences in the burden and mortality from Covid-19. Deploy vaccines accordingly and prioritise affected areas (Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)

Refine the Covid-19 vaccination strategy

By Rajinder Dhamija
UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2021 02:13 PM IST
Research has shown that the pandemic has disproportionately affected regions witha high per capita income and a high burden of NCDs
Close
Having women leaders leads to improved provision of public goods and focus on education and health (Shutterstock)
Having women leaders leads to improved provision of public goods and focus on education and health (Shutterstock)

Where are India’s women leaders?

By Soumya Kapoor Mehta and Steven Walker
UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2021 02:14 PM IST
Women are less involved when it comes to participation in campaigns and contacts with public officials. Women candidates also have less education and experience, on average, compared to male candidates. There are also different societal expectations from political leaders of different genders
Close
Japan’s prime minister Yoshihide Suga, announced a minister of loneliness to his cabinet last month, closely following a similar announcement in January 2018 by the United Kingdom (UK). Loneliness is rarely acknowledged, deeply misunderstood, and alongside anxiety and depression, presents a massive opportunity for rectification as India copes with Covid-19 and beyond. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Japan’s prime minister Yoshihide Suga, announced a minister of loneliness to his cabinet last month, closely following a similar announcement in January 2018 by the United Kingdom (UK). Loneliness is rarely acknowledged, deeply misunderstood, and alongside anxiety and depression, presents a massive opportunity for rectification as India copes with Covid-19 and beyond. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

There is a looming epidemic — of loneliness. Take it seriously

By Saumyajit Roy
UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2021 02:14 PM IST
India has a real opportunity to showcase solutions to a global audience towards using the best of tech and expertise in reducing loneliness. While a dedicated ministry for loneliness may just be the impetus, all we need is to look for are basic ways and means to help people who are on the brink of feeling lonely.
Close
India ranks very low in the list of well-administered nations and rank high amongst corrupt nations. despite several efforts to overhaul the administrative processes(HT Photo)
India ranks very low in the list of well-administered nations and rank high amongst corrupt nations. despite several efforts to overhaul the administrative processes(HT Photo)

Scratching the surface hasn’ helped. It is time to strike at the core issues

By VS Pandey, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 03, 2021 03:02 PM IST
  • India's administrative structure led by All India Services such as the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and the Indian Police Service (IPS) adopted an approach of 5% vs 95%.
Close
While there may be a temporary easing of military tension, there has been criticism in China of the disengagement. China could well attempt another military adventure in its bid to frustrate India’s rise (AFP)
While there may be a temporary easing of military tension, there has been criticism in China of the disengagement. China could well attempt another military adventure in its bid to frustrate India’s rise (AFP)

Disengagement will not lead to friendship

By Jayadeva Ranade
UPDATED ON MAR 03, 2021 04:07 PM IST
Notwithstanding the recent exchanges between the Indian and Chinese foreign ministers and military commanders at the border, India-China relations remain at a critical stage
Close
Muslims have been the most educationally backward group in India. In comparison to their population, they have the lowest enrolment rates at elementary, high school and higher secondary school education, as well as higher education (Raj K Raj/ Hindustan Times)
Muslims have been the most educationally backward group in India. In comparison to their population, they have the lowest enrolment rates at elementary, high school and higher secondary school education, as well as higher education (Raj K Raj/ Hindustan Times)

Provide data on the education of Muslims

By John Kurrien
PUBLISHED ON MAR 02, 2021 06:55 PM IST
Monitoring the educational progress of Muslims was hamstrung by the absence of official data, leading to their downward spiral that went unnoticed for decades
Close
Negative interactions between humans and wildlife intensify when local communities feel that wildlife needs or values are given priority over their own needs (Manoj Kumar/Hindustan Times)
Negative interactions between humans and wildlife intensify when local communities feel that wildlife needs or values are given priority over their own needs (Manoj Kumar/Hindustan Times)

The pandemic has added to the urgency of protecting wildlife

By Dipankar Ghose
UPDATED ON MAR 03, 2021 04:14 PM IST
Wildlife conservation needs to be prioritised, and development plans at country, state and district levels need to take cognisance of wildlife needs
Close
Technology, communications, and data play to our strengths. These are the areas redefining every industry and we have the technology talent; our standards will be closer to the US, and we have continental-size data. (REUTERS)
Technology, communications, and data play to our strengths. These are the areas redefining every industry and we have the technology talent; our standards will be closer to the US, and we have continental-size data. (REUTERS)

The India-US tech partnership decade

By Janmejaya Sinha
UPDATED ON MAR 01, 2021 07:30 PM IST
US support enabled China’s high-growth trajectory. But the rift between the two offers India an opportunity
Close
The Panchamasali Lingayat community is one of the largest sub-sect within the Lingayat community.(ANI/Twitter)
The Panchamasali Lingayat community is one of the largest sub-sect within the Lingayat community.(ANI/Twitter)

Who is stirring the caste cauldron in Karnataka?

By Venkatesha Babu, Bengaluru
UPDATED ON MAR 01, 2021 07:08 PM IST
  • The Karnataka government has blamed the opposition for fishing in troubled waters by trying to take political advantage of the agitations but Yediyurappa may have to look within.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP