Salient Features of the Representation of People’s Act

Salient Features of the Representation of People’s Act

1 . Qualification Matters

  • Only elector can be representative. If not qualified to vote , then cant represent too.
  • If seat is reserved for SC or ST, then only SC or ST can be elected. However, he may be registered voter from other constituency
  • But in case of autonomous district of Assam, Sikkim, ST seat for Lakshadweep, elector should be enrolled in same constituency
Rajya Sabha Should have his name in electoral roll of Parliamentary  Constituency at time of election (not necessarily from that state)
Legislative Council Should be ordinarily resident of state
Lok Sabha Should be listed in electoral roll of any Parliamentary Constituency in India
MLA Should be listed in electoral roll of any Assembly Constituency in state

2. Disqualification Matters

2.1 Disqualification on conviction for certain offences under Section 8

Under Section 8(1), 8(2)  & 8(3) , Member will be Disqualified if convicted for these listed offences (even if punishment is just fine)  

  1. Spreading communal hatred or promoting enmity between groups 
  2. Offences related to rape
  3. Cruelty toward woman by husband & dowry
  4. Offence under Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985
  5. Importing or exporting prohibited goods
  6. Being a member or helping financially unlawful organisation
  7. if sent to jail for atleast 2 years  for any other crime.

Disqualification  in all above cases will be from date of conviction and if there is imprisonment then till 6 years from date of his release.

But Section 8(4) provide a caveat –  ie If  MP/ MLA/MLC  appeal within 3 months of his conviction date for revision of such conviction then he would not be disqualified

2.2 Disqualification under Corrupt Practices

Under  Section 123 ,  MLA or MP can be disqualified under Corrupt Practices which include

  • Bribery – both giving & receiving monetary & non monetary benefits
  • Undue influences like threats, divine grace etc
  • Making race, religion, caste, sex, language etc as basis to get votes
  • Promoting hatred among Indians
  • Making statements on character or motives of other candidates which are false
  • Hiring of vehicle for conveyance of electors
  • Flouting expenditure norms
  • Taking help of government servants – gazetted officers , member of armed forced etc
  • Booth capturing – punishable with imprisonment not less than 1 year to 3 years

Case of  person found guilty is referred to President for determination of question whether such person shall be disqualified or not & if yes then for what period (cannot exceed 6 years) . President decides in consultation with Election Commission & advice is conclusive

3. Political Parties

  • Any association which calls itself a political party shall have to apply to Election Commission of India for registration
  • Association’s memorandum shall contain specific provision that they bear allegiance to constitution of India
  • Political party has to prepare report relating to contribution more than ₹20,000 in a year & submit it to Election Commission of India

4. Right to Vote

  • All persons who are enrolled on electoral roll has right to vote
  • If person votes at more than one constituencies all his votes would be deem to be void .
  • Person in jail & lawful detention cant vote but in preventive detention can vote

Prelims Questions : Right to Vote is Constitutional Right while Right to Contest is Legal Right.

5. Disputes regarding Elections

  • Election disputes are to be tried by respective High Courts .
  • Election petition is the only way to challenge election.

Important cases regarding RPA :  Lily Thomas vs Union of India 2000

  • Cause of case, following provisions of RPA,1951
Sec 8(1) & (2) Those convicted for crimes listed under Section 8 (1), (2) of the Act will be disqualified for a minimum period of six years, even if the punishment is just a fine. (As mentioned above)
Sec 8(3) If person is convicted under a punishable offence and jailed for 2 years  , then he will be disqualified for 6 years
Sec8(4) But if  MP/ MLA appeal within 3 months of his conviction date for revision of such conviction then he would not be disqualified  

Due to this provision, MLA & MPs who have been convicted for murder of even Cabinet members were not disqualified.
  • Supreme Court  gave verdict in favour of Lily Thomas  and declared Section 8(4) as unconstitutional .

Importance of Judgement

  • It is small step in cleaning  Indian politics and stop ‘CRIMINALISATION OF POLITICS’
  • Will play role in reducing muscle power
  • Leaders like Lalu Prasad have been disqualified and is showing desired affect
  • Parties are now cautious to give tickets to tainted leaders whose cases are running in the court and chances of being decided during the life of house.

Way forward

  • Bar candidates against whom charges have been framed by the court in heinous crimes from contesting elections
  • Lifetime ban on convicted politicians from contesting elections (as suggested by Election Commission of India in Nov 2018)
  • Set up fast track courts to exclusively prosecute and dispose criminal cases pending against MPs & MLAs within a year.
  • Bar convicted politicians from becoming office bearer of a party.

Is seeking votes on name of Religion come under corrupt  practice?

Judgement ( Abhiram Singh v/s C.D. Comachen (dead))  2017

  • 4-3 Ruling  
    • “religion, race, caste or language would not be allowed to play any role in the electoral process”
    • election of a candidate would be declared null and void if an appeal is made to seek votes on these considerations.
    • Word HIS include both candidate and elector (ie broader definition) 
  • Dissenting Judgement :
    • RPA does not require such a broad interpretation and the word “his” does not include the elector/voter.
    • Markers such as religion are deeply rooted in the structure of the Indian society.
  • The bench abstained from commenting on the “Hindutva” case.

Criticism of the judgement

  • Doesn’t take into account the social realities: Election and consolidation of Dalits in elections has played important role in the emancipation of Dalits
  • Historical Reason : People have  faced discriminations and deprivations on the ground of religion, caste and language. Hence they can’t be stopped from mobilising on these basis.
  • Indian version of secularism  is different from Western Concept & doesn’t make wall between Religion and State .
  • violates the right to freedom of speech under Article 19
  • It “outlaws” parties like Akali Dal & Muslim League  whose  name violates this interpretation.
  • Practical Reason : On-ground and door-to-door campaigning can’t be monitored. Hence, difficult to implement

Favour of the judgement

  • Legislative history behind  Section 123 of RoPA  was to “curb communal, fissiparous and separatist tendencies. ” Present interpretation of Supreme Court is in line with this.
  • Religion can have no place in secular activities like elections
  • (Psychological Reason) Elections should be fought and votes should be casted on rational reasons .
  • Will help in promoting fraternity and integrity of nation  
  • Inline with principles of secularism which is a basic feature of the Constitution

Earlier Judgement – Hindutva Judgement, 1995 

  • Supreme Court had held that since “Hinduism” and “Hindutva” amounted to a “way of life”, not every election speech that invoked these words amounted to a corrupt electoral practice.

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