Anti-Defection : Sharad Yadav Case

Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, M. Venkaiah Naidu, decided to disqualify two dissident Janata Dal (United) leaders, Sharad Yadav and Ali Anwar Ansari, without referring it to the committee of privileges
  • The objective of the landmark anti-defection law of 1985 was to enhance the credibility of the country’s polity by addressing rampant party-hopping by elected representatives for personal and political considerations.
  • While this enactment brought about some order in the system, some politicians found ways of circumventing it over the years.
  • A member of Parliament or the State legislature incurs disqualification if he either voluntarily gives up the membership of the party or votes or abstains from voting in his legislature, contrary to the direction (whip) of the party.
  • In the present cases, that of Sharad Yadav and Ali Anwar Ansari, the allegation against the members was that by indulging in anti-party activities they had “voluntarily” given up the membership of their party.
  • According to a Supreme Court judgment, “voluntarily giving up the membership of the party” is not synonymous with “resignation”. It could be “implied” in participation of the member in anti-party activities.
  • In two orders pronounced simultaneously, Mr. Naidu declared that Mr. Ansari and Mr. Sharad Yadav had ceased to be members of the Rajya Sabha with immediate effect on account of having incurred disqualification in terms of the Tenth Schedule to the Constitution.
  • The orders of the Chairman have established a benchmark, both in terms of speedy disposal (about three months) as well as the quality of the decisions. Since the anti-defection law came into place, there have been a large number of cases where proceedings have dragged on for years.
  • A reading of the rules prescribed by the Rajya Sabha show that the Chairman is required either to proceed to determine the question himself or refer it to the committee of privileges for a preliminary inquiry.
  • But reference to the committee is contingent upon the Chairman satisfying himself that it is necessary or expedient to do so; it is not mandatory.
  • As a matter of fact, in several cases in the past, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, whenever “the circumstances of the case” so warranted, have “determined the question” themselves, without referring it to the committee.
  • In the present case, there was little dispute about the facts relating to anti-party activities undertaken by the respondents, including aligning with a rival political party.
  • In the interests of natural justice, the respondents were given adequate opportunity to present their arguments on the petitions filed against them.
  • Apart from the written statements, the members were given the opportunity of personal hearing, which they availed. The cases were decided in a short period of three months, but not in a hurry.
  • While delivering the order, Mr. Naidu made it clear that while dissent is a political right, it should be articulated appropriately without striking at the roots of the functioning of the party-based democratic system.
  • The Chairman recalled that the then Law Minister, A.K. Sen, while piloting the bill in 1985 in the Lok Sabha had clearly stated that if defection was to be outlawed effectively then we must choose a forum which will decide the matter fearlessly and expeditiously.
  • The orders assume significance in the context of instances where members have switched sides and became ministers in the governments, which are formed by parties against whom they contested and won.
  • It is hoped that presiding officers of State legislatures will take the advice of the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha in the right spirit.

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