It is common knowledge that individuals contesting elections have to file an affidavit, declaring (i) their criminal records (if any), (ii) assets & liabilities and (iii) educational qualification. What is not widely known is that after getting elected, Members of Parliament are required to file a declaration of assets and liabilities with the Speaker of Lok Sabha and the Chairman of Rajya Sabha. The rules to this effect were made in 2004 under the Representation of Peoples Act , 1951. These declarations have to be made by MPs within 90 days of taking their seat in Parliament. Rules for Lok Sabha MPs an be found hereand those for Rajya Sabha MPs can be found here. The Rajya Sabha rules specify that the declarations made by MPs shall be made availaible to any person with the written permission of the Chairman. The rules also specify that Rajya Sabha MPs are required to update their declarations every year. The Lok Sabha rules specify that the declarations made by the Lok Sabha MPs shall be treated as confidential and shall not be made available to any person without the written permission of the Speaker. The rules also do not contain an express provision for the declaration made by the MPs to be updated in case there is a change in the status of their assets and liabilities. Such rules under the Representation of Peoples Act currently do not exist for MLAs in States.
In the late 1960s and 70s, defections (elected legislators changing parties after the election) in Parliament and State Legislatures became very frequent, so frequent in fact, that the epithet "Aaya Ram Gaya Ram" was coined to describe the same. To curb this problem which created instability in our legislatures, Parliament amended the Constitution. They inserted the Tenth Schedule to the Constitution "to curb the evil of political defections". As a result, we currently have an anti-defection law with the following features: 1. If an MP/MLA who belongs to a political party voluntarily resigns from his party or, disobeys the party "whip" (a direction given by the party to all MPs/ MLAs to vote in a certain manner), he is disqualified. The party may however condone the MP/ MLA within 15 days. 2. An independent MP/ MLA cannot join a political party after the election. 3. An MP/ MLA who is nominated (to the Rajya Sabha or upper houses in state legislatures) can only join a party within 6 months of his election. 4. Mergers of well-defined groups of individuals or political parties are exempted from disqualification if certain conditions are met. 5. The decision to disqualify is taken by the Speaker/ Chairman of the House. The table below summarizes provisions of anti-defection law in some other countries. (For more, click here). As one may note, a number of developed countries do not have any law to regulate defection.
Regulation of defection in some countries
|Country||Experi-ence||Law on defection||The Law on Defection|
|Bangladesh||Yes||Yes||The Constitution says a member shall vacate his seat if he resigns from or votes against the directions given by his party. The dispute is referred by the Speaker to the Election Commission.|
|Kenya||Yes||Yes||The Constitution states that a member who resigns from his party has to vacate his seat. The decision is by the Speaker, and the member may appeal to the High Court.|
|Singapore||Yes||Yes||Constitution says a member must vacate his seat if he resigns, or is expelled from his party. Article 48 states that Parliament decides on any question relating to the disqualification of a member.|
|South Africa||Yes||Yes||The Constitution provides that a member loses membership of the Parliament if he ceases to be a member of the party that nominated him.|