Misuse of Anti- Defection Act

Defection

Sharad Yadav and Ali Anwar have finally been disqualified by the Chairman of Rajya Sabha from the membership of the Upper House of the Indian Parliament. But, the order of the Chairman, Venkaiah Naidu, has raised some Constitutional questions. This Law was enacted in 1995, when Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister of the country. In the decade preceding the time, defections had become so frequent that the political stability of many state governments was facing danger.

Most of the defections were taking place because of the lust for power and money of the defectors. Hence, the Anti-Defection Act was appreciated as a welcome step. But, in following decade, it was realised that this Act was being misused by the powerful people and the ground for a vulnerable split was evident. Demands rose from some quarters that this Act should be further strengthened and bowing to the demand the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government made the Act more stringent. In an earlier version of the Act, to split a party one needed one third of the total strength of legislators in a particular House. In the revised Act, now the number of legislators to formalise a split became two- thirds of the total number of legislators.

Despite making the Act more stringent, misuse of the Act continued. According to the Act, if a legislator violates the whip of the party in Parliament or Legislative Assemblies and Councils, he or she is liable to lose his or her membership. After such violation, the leader of the Party concerned petitions the Speaker of Chairman and then the order disqualifying the membership is passed. Before taking a decision, the Chairman or Speaker gives an opportunity to the MP or MLA concerned to clarify his/her stand.

In the past this Act has been misused many times to ensure the majority of a government by the ruling party and the issue has been brought to High Courts, and the Supreme Court as well. Sharad Yadav, too, has appealed against his disqualification in the Delhi High Court. He has questioned the decision of the Chairman by claiming the issue of the split of Janata Dal (United), which has not been settled. So, they have challenged the decision of the Election Commission of India, which had given the symbol Arrow to the JD (U) led by Nitish Kumar.

In fact, the Sharad Yadav faction had challenged the election of Nitish Kumar as the President of the party. According to it, his election was not preceded by the formation of the National Council, which elects the President. Janata Dal (U) is registered as a National Party with the Election Commission (though it is recognized as a regional party of Bihar). The National Council, which elected him as Party President was having members only from four states.While giving its decision in favor of Nitish Kumar, the Election Commission had accepted that it did not have the authorities to decide the validity of the election and that it can only be decided by the Court.

Even the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha said that the issue of validity of an election can be decided by the Court and what is important for him is that the JD (U) headed by Nitish Kumar is the real JD (U) as per the order of Election Commission. Since Sharad Yadav was no more a member of the JD (U) led by Nitish Kumar, he had violated the provision of the Anti-Defection Act and he qualified for disqualification from the House.

Both the issues of disqualification of Sharad Yadav from the Rajya Sabha and recognition of the Nitish faction of Janata Dal (U) as the real Dal are now with the Court, which will dwell deeply on the legal issues involved. But, it is not difficult to see that may political parties have become pocket parties of their leaders as they are not governed by their own Constitutions, rather by the whims of their so called ‘Supremo’. This Supremo culture should come to an end and the Election Commission should be empowered to see whether political parties are being run by their own Constitution or not.

-Contributed by Kriti Prasad

Picture Credits: scroll.in



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