Que. Anti defection law needs to respect democracy and its spirit. Comment
Ans.: 52nd Constitution Amendment in 1985 introduced the anti-defection law whose contents are kept in the Tenth Schedule. While it tried to introduce political morality by disincentivising defections, there is the avoidable slant towards suppressing dissent unduly.
Paradoxically, Schedule X has created profound anti-democratic ramifications in the Indian polity. In our parliamentary system based on debate and discussion, anti defection law curtailed both. It mandates that once the whip of a political party has directed voting on a matter in a particular way, a legislator cannot vote in a contrary manner. Even if the member sees merit in a contrary opinion, this provision restricts individual decision-making and mandates a faithful adherence to the directions of the party whip.
Whips, as parliamentary functionaries, ensure attendance of party members and enforce voting according to party lines.
Legislator can not criticise party policies in public as it amounts to disloyalty to parliament and the courts ruled that it is open to interpretation as defection attracting disqualification.
It reduces the legislator to nothing more than a member of party.
It also belittles parliamentary proceedings by denying conscience vote.
In doing so, the anti defection law renders Art.19.1.a meaningless. Also, Art.105 that enables the parliamentarian to speak and vote as he wants becomes restricted.
Thus, there is a need to reform the anti defection law to enable conscience vote and right to dissent without attracting disqualification.