The anti-defection law, enacted in 1985 to check the menace of “Aaya Ram, Gaya Ram” culture in Indian politics.
Mumbai: After deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar purportedly split the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and formed the government with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the anti-defection law is all set to dominate the discourse around the upcoming floor test.
The law, enacted in 1985 to check the menace of “Aaya Ram, Gaya Ram” culture in Indian politics, provides a legal framework for legislators to form a new party or merge into another without losing their seats. However, at least two-third members of the legislative party have to come together in order to avoid disqualification from the House.
The Speaker plays a key role in determining whether an individual member or a faction has violated the anti-defection law or not. When the state Assembly goes for the floor test, the Speaker’s role will be under close scrutiny.
Shreehari Aney, the former advocate general of Maharashtra, said that the Speaker would disqualify the rebel MLAs who defy the whip. “But the anti-defection law comes into play only when the party would approach the Speaker with a complaint. Only then would the Speaker take any action,” he said.
While there is no procedure laid down for handling complaints of MLAs defying the party whip, Mr Aney said that the Speaker issues a notice against whom there is a complaint, hears out their cases and seeks credible evidence. Based on the evidence, the Speaker may disqualify or vindicate the MLA under the scanner.
However, there is no time limit stipulated for the Speaker to decide any case, Mr Aney noted and added that the duration of resolving a case of defection varies from case to case. “If MLAs do not admit to defying their whip, everything would boil down to evidence. So, a case may linger for a long time,” he said.
Jagdeep S. Chhokar, founder of Association for Democratic Reforms, added, “Unfortunately, Speakers often have allegiances with their parties which leads to them taking biased decisions. There have been cases where the Speaker just sits on a complaint and takes no action.”
Moreover, both Mr Aney and Mr Chhokar concurred that decisions taken by the Speaker can be challenged in the courts only on limited grounds, partly because that would mean the interference of the judiciary into the legislature.