This Article on “Anti Defection law in context of Rajasthan Crisis” is written by Nashita Nazneen. A Student of B. S. Abdur Rahman Crescent Institute of Science and Technology, Crescent School of Law.
The word politics originates from the Greek word “Politika” which signifies “of, for, or identifying with citizens”. The fundamental target of Anti-Defection Laws which was presented in the Constitution by Late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in January 1985 was to battle “the evil of political defections“. This law would not have been established if there had been no Government of Rajiv Gandhi and the lion’s share to pass it. This law was passed with the goal that it confines the surrenders in the legislative issues. This act of individuals changing the political sides to get office is otherwise called Horse-Trading.
ANTI – DEFECTION LAW
Aaya Ram Gaya Ram was an expression that got famous in Indian politics after a Haryana MLA Gaya Lal changed his party threefold around the same time in 1967. The anti-defection law looked to forestall such political defections which might be because of remuneration of office or other comparable contemplation. The 10th Schedule was embedded in the Constitution in 1985.
It sets out the cycle by which legislators might be precluded on grounds of defections by the Presiding Officer of a governing body dependent on a petition by some other individual from the House. A legislator is deemed to have defected if he either intentionally surrenders the enrollment of his party or defies the mandates of the party leadership on a vote. This suggests a legislator defying (avoiding or casting a ballot against) the party whip on any issue can lose his enrollment of the House. The law is applicable to both Parliament and state assemblies.
RAJASTHAN CRISIS – TIMELINE
- 2018, Congress won an election in the State of Rajasthan. There was a contention of whom to assign as Chief Minister (CM), a young upheld pioneer; Sachin Pilot, or a cultivated politician; Ashok Gehlot. A comparative conflict occurred in Madhya Pradesh government among Scindhia and Kamal Nath, where Kamal Nath was chosen as CM. There was always a clash of the old guard and young brigade.
- There was distrust among the MLAs favoring Sachin Pilot and Ashok Gehlot regarding the same.
- 11th July 2020, CM Ashok Gehlot alleged that BJP was offering their MLAs Rs. 25 Crores per MLA to switch parties and fail the Congress government. A similar situation took place in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh. But their conflict is not only due to BJP but their internal politics as well.
- In Karnataka, CM Kumaraswamy alleged that BJP was offering its MLAs Rs. 20 Crores per MLA. As proof audiotapes were released; soon after 16-17 MLAs switched parties and BJP made their government.
- In Madhya Pradesh, CM Kamal Nath alleged that BJP was offering their MLAs Rs. 20-30 Crores per MLA. After a few months, more than 20 MLAs switched parties and BJP made their government.
- 11th July 2020, the Special Operations Group (SOG) of Rajasthan arrested 2 members with an association to BJP on charges of bribing MLAs.
- Notice was sent to Sachin Pilot and other MLAs by Rajasthan Police to record their statements related to the charges.
- Sachin Pilot got miffed and left to Haryana along with 10-15 MLAs who supported him and stayed in a hotel.
- Speculations raised that Sachin Pilot met with BJP President JP Nadda and will join BJP. However, none of this took place.
- On 12th July 2020, Ashok Gehlot summoned a party meeting to show solidarity and support of his 109 MLAs; the other 30 MLAs were in support of Sachin Pilot. Meeting neglected.
- On 13th July 2020, Rajasthan Congress convened a legislature meeting (issues whip) for its MLAs and warned of disciplinary action, if not attended. Meeting neglected.
- On 14th July 2020, another meeting was held. Sachin Pilot was personally invited. Meeting neglected.
- Sachin Pilot and other MLAs were stripped of their post for repeatedly ignoring the meeting summons and removed Sachin Pilot from the post of President of Congress Party, Rajasthan.
- Speaker of Rajasthan served notice to 19 MLAs of Congress and asked them as to why should they not be disqualified under Anti Defection Law, as they failed to attend the party meeting.
- Sachin Pilot and other MLAs challenged the notice in Rajasthan HC – Plea in HC to quash the speaker’s notice on grounds of passing it in unholy haste and mala-fide intention.
Total no. of seats in Rajasthan = 200
Majority mark = 101
The 2018 Election, was won by Congress Party with 107 seats and BJP won only 72 seats.
Independent Candidates with 13 seats were in favor of Congress.
Rashtriya Loktantrik Party with 3 seats was in favor of BJP.
Support of Ashok Gehlot = 109 MLAs
Support of Sachin Pilot = 30 MLAs
No. of MLAs in support of Sachin Pilot and no. of MLAs in support of Ashok Gehlot; will determine the winning candidate.
Sachin Pilot’s Favor:
- Sachin Pilot was responsible for the revival of Congress in Rajasthan after the 2013 hit.
- Several famous journalists and four Congress functionaries said that they baited for Sachin Pilot, as Ashok Gehlot started this conflict to remove him from the way to not challenge his authority.
- It has been alleged that Sachin Pilot was kept away from the affairs of the party. Eg, Sachin Pilot was sidelined during the state government’s battle with the Covid19 crisis.
- A special booklet was launched by Congress recording achievements of the government over past years and there was no mention of him, with complete isolation from the celebrations.
Ashok Gehlot’s Favor:
- The credit of winning the 2018 elections was given to Sachin Pilot, but it is a well-known fact that Rajasthan voters flip between Congress and BJP every 5 years. Therefore, Sachin did not have a big role as portrayed by the media.
- Sachin Pilot baited by Ashok Gehlot is a rumor because the Rajasthan Government as actually intercepted audio in which there were conversations of BJP bribing allegedly conversing about horse-trading.
- Others claim that Sachin Pilot become greedy as he achieved the MP position to Deputy CM all between the age of 26 – 40.
- Sachin Pilot approached Harish Salve, a lawyer pro-BJP in his HC case when he claims that he has no links with BJP.
The result of the political crisis in Rajasthan now rests with the judiciary. Along with the Order, the Court also effectively barred Rajasthan assembly Speaker C.P. Joshi from acting on the disqualification notice issued to Sachin Pilot and other 18 MLAs.
They moved the HC, claiming that the disqualification notices issued to them by the Speaker were an attempt to stifle their voices, sought to change the leadership within the party in the most democratic manner. They have also challenged the Constitutional validity of Clause 2(1)(a) of the 10th Schedule.
It records two circumstances for exclusion on the ground of defection. Right off the bat, if an MP or an MLA “has voluntarily given up his membership of such political party” [Clause 2(1)(a)]. Also, in the event that if he votes or abstains from voting in the House contrary to any direction issued by his party, that is if he violates the party whip in the House [Clause 2(1)(b)].
It is the primary ground under Clause 2(1)(a) that Sachin Pilot and the MLAs have challenged, declaring that the arrangement can’t be broadly construed that the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression of a member of the House is jeopardized “Mere expression of dissatisfaction or even disillusionment against the party leadership cannot be treated to conduct falling within the clause 2(1)(a) of the 10th Schedule of the Constitution of India”, their petition had said. They have, therefore, demanded that clause 2(1)(a) be declared ultra-vires.
Why they don’t want to get disqualified?
If an MLA gets disqualified they cannot become a minister in new government until they win an election. However, if they resign they can join another government.
A similar situation took place in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh – MLAs approached the Governor their resignation first to not attract disqualification.
The introduction of the 10th Schedule in the Indian Constitution was aimed at curbing political defections. Though the law has succeeded in a reasonable way due to some of its loopholes, it has not been able to accomplish as well as expected. Corrupt politicians have, through their dishonesty, been able to find the imperfections in the law to suit their needs in the best possible way. Action must be taken in all the organs of government for effective implementation of the Schedule to achieve its objectives.
- The Anti-Defection Law explained; Vibhor Relhan – Dec 6, 2017 https://www.prsindia.org
- The Constitution (52nd Amendment) Act, 1985
- Report of the National Commission to review the working of the Constitution, 2002
- Report of the Committee on Electoral Reforms, 1990
- Law Commission (170th report), 1999
- Why Anti-Defection Law has failed to deliver, Gautam Bhatia – Jul 30, 2020 https://www.hindustantimes.com
- Anti Defection Law The challenges, Dr. Prem Kumar Agarwal http://www.legalservicesindia.com
- Analysis of Anti Defection Laws in India, Sakshi Rewaria – July 26, 2018 https://www.latestlaws.com