Once touted as one of the most vibrant democracies based on modern principles, Indian democracy has gradually slipped to a chaotic governance system. For the mainstream Indian political parties, this may be due to the past legacy of British laws resulting in sharp differences between caste, region and religion as the divisive principles. However, the Indian constitution was built on modern principles to unite the diverse peoples for solving problems of the poverty stricken population. But as the historically subjugated population started asserting their political rights guaranteed by the Constitution, the anti-defection law with fundamentally undemocratic principles was allowed to overtake this vibrant democracy. Western political philosophers would be surprised to know that the individual parliamentary member does not have a right to dissent within the parliament, and members may lose their house membership in case they vote against the wishes of their respective parties within the house. This paper provides detailed evaluation of the anti-defection law and how it is against the fundamental principles of modern democracy. The primary target of this paper is the political science student, however, it should be of interest to a broad readership including those interested in law and governance.
Keywords: Anti-defection law, Constitution, Politics, Democracy, Parliament, Political party
Schedule X of the Constitution of India, containing the anti-defection law, was enacted after three and half decades of India's experience with parliamentary democracy. During the initial 15 years of Indian parliamentary democracy, the first Prime Minister Mr. JL Nehru led the government with Congress party majority. The phenomenon of defection became more apparent from the 4th Lok Sabha, that is, from 1967 onward. As per the debates of Rajya Sabha during the discussion of the bill, it was explained that the defection phenomenon really happened when the Congress Party suffered reverses - in some of the States in the elections, resulting in the reduced majority of the Congress Party in the Lok Sabha. (Rajya Sabha debate 1985)
Post Nehru era, multiple factions within the Congress party started to emerge along with more representation of opposition parties. Further, India experienced the most tumultuous period of Emergency which tested the strength of Indian constitution and parliament. The 70s era marked floor crossing as a common problem facing all parties, wherein any member changes his/her stance abruptly just before the voting inside the parliament, probably many times due to monetary allurement. After many cases of floor crossing on crucial voting, the term "Aaya Ram Gaya Ram" was coined to describe this phenomenon in the mass media.