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Elections are super important in democracies because they let different parties with different ideologies compete fairly for power. This is what makes democracy strong and lively. However, the issue of defections within political parties poses a significant challenge to the stability of the party system. 

To deal with this, there are rules called the anti-defection laws. These laws in such circumstance penalise the individual Members of Parliament (MPs) or Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) for changing their party affiliation after being elected. In a general sense it means someone leaving their group to join another. For instance, when a player changes teams in sports. In politics, it’s serious because it can change who has power.

The anti-defection law addresses such scenarios in national or state legislatures, applying to party members, independent legislators, and nominated members. While this law aims to prevent arbitrary party switching that could disrupt legislative functioning, it also allows for certain exceptions under specific circumstances.

So, while having different parties is great for democracy, defections can cause big disruptions. Balancing party loyalty with personal beliefs is always a challenge in keeping democracy fair and strong.


The term "defection" has roots in the Latin word 'defectio,' which implies abandoning a person or cause one is bound to by allegiance or duty, or to which one has willingly committed. It signifies rebellion, dissent, and revolt by an individual or a group. Defection describes the process of leaving behind one cause or group and potentially joining another. It involves abandoning allegiance or duty to a cause, party, or program, and when this process is complete, the person is termed a defector.

This concept has historical ties to "floor crossing," originating in the British House of Commons. In this context, legislators symbolized their change in allegiance by physically moving from one side of the legislative floor to the other, signifying a shift from the government to the opposition side, or vice versa.


Defections in Indian politics have a long history, dating back to the days where Shri Shyam Lai Nehru, a member of the Central Legislature, shifted allegiance from the Congress Party to the British side. Another notable instance occurred in 1937 when Shri Hafiz Mohammed Ibrahim, elected to the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly on the Muslim League ticket, defected to join the Congress.

The late sixties marked a significant period of party-switching in Indian politics, not always driven by ideological reasons. According to the Chavan Committee Report in 1969, after the Fourth General Elections, there was a surge in instances of legislators changing party allegiance across several states. In a short span between March 1967 and February 1968, there were numerous such cases. Out of approximately 542 cases spanning two decades from the First to the Fourth General Elections, about 438 defections occurred in just 12 months.

Among Independent legislators, 157 out of a total of 376 elected representatives joined various parties during this period. The allure of holding office played a significant role in these defections. Out of 210 defecting legislators across different states, 116 were included in the Councils of Ministers formed through these defections. This highlights how the prospect of power influenced the decisions of legislators to switch parties. 


The Anti-Defection Law, introduced in 1985 through the 52nd Amendment to India's Constitution, added the Tenth Schedule. This law aimed to curb defections by defining them and outlining disqualification criteria for members of Parliament or state legislatures.

Key features of the Anti-Defection Law include:

  • Disqualification from Parliament or State Legislature if a member voluntarily resigns from their party or goes against party directives on a vote.

  • Amendments to articles 101, 102, 190, and 191 of the Constitution regarding seat vacation and disqualification from legislative membership due to defection.

The Anti-Defection Law in India has both advantages and disadvantages:


  • Stability: Prevents frequent shifts of party allegiance, which can destabilize governments and legislative bodies.

  • Party Loyalty: Ensures elected candidates remain loyal to party policies and manifestoes, promoting consistency in governance.

  • Discipline: Encourages party discipline among members, fostering unity and coherence in decision-making processes.


  • Reduced Accountability: Limits parliamentarians' ability to change parties, potentially reducing the government's accountability to Parliament and the public.

  • Freedom of Expression: Curbs members' freedom of speech and expression by discouraging dissent against party policies, possibly stifling healthy debates and diverse viewpoints.

The primary aim of the law is to address the negative impacts of political defections, such as opportunistic party-switching. It defines defection as voluntarily leaving a party or voting against party directives, leading to disqualification. Balancing stability and accountability while upholding democratic values remains a continuous challenge in implementing and interpreting the Anti-Defection Law.

The grounds for disqualification under the Anti-Defection Law in India are as follows:

  • Voluntary Giving up Membership: If an elected member voluntarily gives up their membership of a political party.

  • Voting Against Party Directive: If a member votes or abstains from voting in the House contrary to any direction issued by their political party.

  • Independent Member Joining a Party: If an independently elected member joins any political party.

  • Nominated Member Joining a Party: If a nominated member joins any political party after the expiration of six months from their nomination.

The decision regarding disqualification due to defection is made by the Speaker or Chairman of the House, and their decision is final. These proceedings are considered as proceedings within Parliament or the Legislature of a state.

Exceptions to the Anti-Defection Law include:

  • Merger of Parties: If two-thirds of legislators of a political party decide to merge into another party, neither the members who join the new party nor those who remain with the original party will face disqualification. Under the 1985 Act, a 'defection' by one-third of a political party's elected members was viewed as a 'merger.' However, the 91st Constitutional Amendment Act of 2003 modified this, requiring at least two-thirds of the party's members to support a "merger" for it to be legally recognized.

  • Resignation and Rejoining: Any person elected as chairman or speaker can resign from their party and rejoin the party if they relinquish that post.

It's worth noting that earlier versions of the law allowed parties to be split, but this provision has been abolished in current legislation. These exceptions aim to accommodate certain political scenarios while maintaining the integrity of the Anti-Defection Law.

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