Electoral Reforms In India

Explained: Anti-Defection Law


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Anti-defection Law

Mains level : Role of ADL

  • Cases of defection have been reportedly rising from various states like Goa, Karnataka, Telangana etc.

Anti-defection law in India

  • For a long time, the Indian political scene was clouded by political defections by members of the legislature. This situation brought about greater instability in the political system.
  • The infamous “Aaya Ram, Gaya Ram” slogan was coined against the background of continuous defections by the legislators.
  • Legislators used to change parties frequently, bringing about chaos in the legislatures as governments fell.
  • In sum, they often brought about political instability. This caused serious concerns to the right thinking political leaders of the country.
  • The ‘anti-defection law’ was passed through an Act of Parliament in 1985 by the government under Rajiv Gandhi.
  • Passed as the 52nd Amendment Act, it added the law as the 10th Schedule of the Constitution.

What all does the Law cover?

  • It states that members who do the following will lose their membership any House (which could be at the Centre or in a State) if they:
  1. Voluntary resign from their political party from which they have been elected
  2. Vote against the direction of their political party (in legislature)
  3. Does not vote/abstain from voting (in legislature) despite having a direction to vote from their party.
  • and 3. do not apply if the member has prior permission from his/her party or the party condones the member’s action within 15 days of the voting.
  • Members independent of any political party will lose their membership if they join one after their election to legislature.
  • Nominated members will lose their membership if they join a party within 6 months of their nomination to legislature.

Certain Exceptions to the Law

  • The law provides exceptions from being disqualified as a member of legislature on the following grounds:
  1. When political parties merge with each other entirely
  2. When a political party splits into other parties, subject to not less than a third of the members splitting
  3. When two-thirds (or more) of members belonging to a party join another party without both their parties explicitly merging
  • The Speaker or the Chairman of the concerned Houses (as applicable) makes decisions on defection matters.
  • If the Chairman or the Speaker defects, the decisions shall be made by a member elected by the House.

Has the law changed since inception, and if so, how?

  • Yes, the law was amended in 2003.
  • When it was enacted first, there was a provision under which if there occurs a split in the original political party and as a result of which one-third of the legislators of that party forms a separate group, they shall not be disqualified.
  • This provision resulted in large scale defections and the lawmakers were convinced that the provision of a split in the party was being misused. Therefore, they decided to delete this provision.
  • Now, the only provision which can be invoked for protection from disqualification is the provision relating to the merger, which is provided in Paragraph 4 of the 10th Schedule.

Is the law, as it stands now, open to interpretation?

  • The first ground for disqualifying a legislator for defecting from a party is his voluntarily giving up the membership of his party.
  • This term “voluntarily giving up the membership of his party” is susceptible to interpretation.
  • As has been explained earlier, voluntarily giving up the membership is not the same as resigning from a party.
  • The Supreme Court has clarified this point by saying that the presiding officer, who acts as a tribunal, has to draw a reasonable inference from the conduct of the legislator.

How far has the law succeeded in achieving its goal?

  • The law certainly has been able to curb the evil of defection to a great extent.
  • But, of late, a very alarming trend of legislators defecting in groups to another party in search of greener pastures is visible.
  • The recent examples of defection in state Assemblies and even in Rajya Sabha bear this out.
  • This only shows that the law needs a relook in order to plug the loopholes if any.


  • This law has served the interest of the society.
  • Political instability caused by frequent and unholy change of allegiance on the part of the legislators of our country has been contained to a very great extent.
  • That is a story of success of one of the most important legislation that the Indian Parliament has enacted.
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