defection: to abandon a position or association, often to join an opposing group

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The evil of political defections has been a matter of national concern. If it is not combated, it is likely to undermine the very foundations of our democracy and the principles which sustain it. With this object, an assurance was given in the Address by the President to Parliament that the Government intended to introduce in the current session of Parliament an anti-defection Bill. This Bill is meant for outlawing defection and fulfilling the above assurance.

(From Statement of Objects and Reasons appended to the Constitution (Fifty-second Amendment) Bill, 1985 (Bill No. 22 of 1985) which was enacted as THE CONSTITUTION (Fifty-second Amendment) Act, 1985)

Here’s everything you need to know about anti-defection law
(DNA India

* The Tenth Schedule — popularly known as the Anti-Defection Act — was included in the Constitution in 1985 by the Rajiv Gandhi ministry and sets the provisions for disqualification of elected members on the grounds of defection to another political party.

* The law was added via the 52nd Amendment Act, 1985, soon after the Rajiv government came to power with a thumping majority in the wake of the assassination of prime minister Indira Gandhi. The Congress had won 401 seats in the Lok Sabha.

* The grounds for disqualification under the Anti-Defection Law’s are as follows:

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

As a pre-condition for his disqualification, his abstention from voting should not be condoned by his party or the authorised person within 15 days of such incident.

* As per the 1985 Act, a ‘defection’ by one-third of the elected members of a political party was considered a ‘merger’.

* The members so disqualified can stand for elections from any political party for a seat in the same House.

* The decision on questions as to disqualification on ground of defection are referred to the Chairman or the Speaker of such House, and his decision is final.

* All proceedings in relation to any question on disqualification of a member of a House under this Schedule are deemed to be proceedings in Parliament or in the Legislature of a state. No court has any jurisdiction.


A screenshot from the Hindu

* The Dinesh Goswami Committee on Electoral Reforms, the Law Commission in its report on ‘Reform of Electoral Laws’ and the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC) all recommended the deletion of the Tenth Schedule provision regarding exemption from disqualification in case of a split.

* Finally the 91st Constitutional Amendment Act, 2003, changed this. So now at least two-thirds of the members of a party have to be in favour of a ‘merger’ for it to have validity in the eyes of the law. ‘The merger of the original political party or a member of a House shall be deemed to have taken place if, and only if, not less than two-thirds of the members of the legislature party concerned have agreed to such merger,’ states the Tenth Schedule.

* A split in a political party will not be considered a defection if an entire political party merges with another; if a new political party is formed by some of the elected members of one party; if he or she or other members of the party have not accepted the merger between the two parties and opted to function as a separate group from the time of such a merger.

* On defection of elected members of his party, the whip can send a petition on the alleged defection to the Chairman or the Speaker of a House for their disqualification. He can also expel the members from the party. But this does not necessarily mean that the members so expelled lose their seats in the House.