Anti Defection Law

Important role of vigilant Opposition in democracy

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : 10th Schedule

Mains level : Paper 2- Role of Opposition in democracy

Context

Role of Opposition in indispensable in the democracy.

Reasons for adopting parliamentary democracy

  • The Indian Constitution adopted the parliamentary system and not the presidential system.
  • B.R. Ambedkar provided the rationale for this: “A democratic executive must satisfy two conditions –
  • (1) It must be a stable executive and
  • (2) it must be a responsible executive.
  • Unfortunately it has not been possible so far to devise a system which can ensure both in equal degree.
  • Assessment of executive: In England, where the parliamentary system prevails, the assessment of responsibility of the executive is both daily and periodic.
  • Daily assessment: The daily assessment is done by members of Parliament, through questions, resolutions, no-confidence motions, adjournment motions and debates on addresses.
  • Periodic assessment: Periodic assessment is done by the electorate at the time of the election.
  • The daily assessment of responsibility which is not available under the American system it is felt far more effective than the periodic assessment and far more necessary in India.

Role of Opposition in democracy

  • Democracy is the basic feature of the Constitution.
  • The presence of a vigilant Opposition is necessary not just for a vibrant democracy but for its very survival.
  • When the Opposition criticises the government or carries on an agitation to arouse public opinion against a party’s misdeeds, it is performing a duty that is assigned by the Constitution.
  • Without an effective Opposition, democracy will become dull and legislature will become submissive.

Significance of anti-defection law

  • Encouraging defections from the parties in power in States will sound the death knell for democracy.
  • The Tenth Schedule has failed to serve its purpose.
  • The Supreme Court, in Kihoto Hollohan v. Zachillhu (1992), while upholding the 52nd Amendment said that: “On the one hand there is the real and imminent threat to the very fabric of Indian democracy posed by certain levels of political behaviour conspicuous by their utter and total disregard of well recognised political proprieties and morality… On the other hand, there are… certain side-effects which might affect and hurt even honest dissenters and conscientious objectors.”
  • In upholding the law, the court held: “But a political party functions on the strength of shared beliefs… Any freedom of its members to vote as they please independently of the political party’s declared policies will not only embarrass its public image and popularity but also undermine public confidence in it.”
  • What is whip? The whip system is part of the established machinery of political organisation in the House and does not infringe on a member’s rights or privilege in any way.
  • Some political thinkers have recognised as an additional device the ‘theory of recall,’ so that a member whose personal behaviour falls below standards expected of his constituents goes back and seek their approval.
  • This power is particularly apt when a member shows disloyalty to his party but declines to resign from his seat and to fight an immediate by-election.
  • The anti-defection law was supposed to be the justification underlying the power of recall.

Way forward

  • Political parties, the judiciary and civil society must take steps to ensure that democracy does not fail.
  • The Opposition must be tolerated because if it is left for the party in power to decide what is healthy and unhealthy criticism, then every criticism of the latter will be treated as unhealthy.
  • while the Opposition must be credible and strong, it is for the Opposition to make itself credible and strong. It must feel the pulse of the people.
  • Unless it makes itself respectable, it cannot demand any respect. This is the biggest challenge facing the nation today.

Conclusion

The Opposition must also work constructively. Our constitutional goal was to establish a sovereign, democratic republic.

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