[This article was authored by Ayush Kashyap, student at Hidayatullah National Law university, Raipur. It analyses different forms of censure to defections and argues that India should adopt a laissez-faire attitude towards defection.]
Defection is a dirty word in Indian politics. It evokes images of bundles of cash being exchanged for cross-voting and a general decay of political morality. The spate of defections before the 1980s forced the hand of the government to enact a law against defection as shocking instances of party-hopping became commonplace. There was a lack of political consensus on the issue which led to the issue being put in cold storage for a decade and a half. The law which finally emerged, soon became more honoured in breach than in observance.
However, it survived judicial review and the Speaker of the Parliament and State Legislatures were given a free hand under the law. The real potential of this law to do long-standing damage became clear with the political consolidation at the federal level in the first half of the current decade. The Supreme Court’s confidence that two-thirds threshold for validating a merger soon began to shatter in one state after another. The role of the Speaker has once more come under question.
The approach to defection is refreshingly different outside India. This paper argues that India too should adopt a laissez-faire attitude towards defection. It should allow the electorate to flush out instances of corrupt political behaviour while simultaneously preserving the separation of powers, and permitting the legislative branch to correct its course by allowing dissent dictated by personal convictions. This understanding is reached after analysing different forms of censure to defections and finding them wholly inadequate.