Anti-Defection Law for Independent MLA

News: An independent MLA from Gujarat is said to have has joined a national political party “in spirit” as he could not formally do so, having been elected as an independent.

What is 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 when Rajiv Gandhi was PM. The law applies to both Parliament and state assemblies.
  • The anti-defection law specifies the circumstances under which changing of political parties by legislators invites action under the law. It includes situations in which an independent MLA, too, joins a party after the election. Independents give voters better opportunities to express their preferences.
  • This can improve political representation, as independents are free from the dictates of a party line, and have the flexibility to represent local preferences in a way that party-affiliated candidates often do not.

Imposition of Anti-Defection Law:

  • 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.
  • When a legislator who has won his or her seat as an independent candidate joins a political party after the election.
    • In the above two cases, the legislator loses the seat in the legislature on changing (or joining) a party.
  • In case of nominated MPs/MLAs, 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.

Disqualification:

  • Under the anti-defection law, the power to decide the disqualification of an MP or MLA rests with the presiding officer of the legislature. The law does not specify a time frame in which such a decision has to be made.
  • Last year, the Supreme Court observed that anti-defection cases should be decided by Speakers in three months’ time. However, Legislators may change their party without the risk of disqualification in certain circumstances.
  • The law allows a party to merge with or into another party provided that at least two-thirds of its legislators are in favour of the merger. On being elected as the presiding officer of the House, if a member, voluntarily gives up the membership of his party or rejoins it after he ceases to hold that office, he won’t be disqualified.