Salient features of the Representation of Peoples Act 1951
People are the supreme power in the democratic country. Accordingly the People of India solemnly resolved that India is a democratic country. As we know that the India is a largest democracy in the world. The term Democracy mentioned in the Preamble of the constitution of India in the broader sense embracing not only political democracy but also social, economic and inclusive democracy.The Indian constitution provides for the representative parliamentary democracy under which the Executive is responsible for legislature for all its policies and actions.
The Representation of People Act, 1951(RPA) is an act of Parliament of India, which provides for the following:
- Conduct of elections of the Houses of Parliament and to the House or Houses of the Legislature of each State.
- Details about the structure of administrative machinery for the conduct of elections
- Qualifications and disqualifications for membership of those Houses
- Corrupt practices and other offences at or in connection with such elections and the decision of doubts and disputes arising out of or in connection with such elections.
The Act was enacted by the provisional Parliament under Article 327 of Indian Constitution, before the first general election. Art 327 states that subject to the provisions of our Constitution, the Parliament is empowered to make provisions by law, with respect to all matters relating to, or in connection with, elections to either House of Parliament or to the house or houses of the state legislature including preparation of electoral rolls, the delimitation of constituencies and all other necessary matters.
Representation of People Act 1951 has undergone several amendments since it was enacted and currently it has 13 parts from Part I to Part XI with additional parts of IV A and V A. It had originally 171 sections, but at present there are 192 sections as several new sections have been inserted, while few sections were also repealed by the Parliament in the past.
Some of the important features of the act are as follows:
- Part 21 of the the Indian Constitution drafted by the Constituent Assembly had mentioned for a provisional parliament. The provisional parliament enacted Representation of People’s Act 1951, so that general elections could be conducted according to the rules mentioned.
- Representation of People’s Act contains 13 parts (2 parts added as amendments). Each part is divided into different sections making it a total of 171 numbered sections (including those sections which were repealed later.).
- Election” means an election to fill a seat or seats in either House of Parliament or in the House or either House of the Legislature of a State other than the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
Qualifications for Membership of Parliament
Chapter-I and Chapter-II of Part II of RPA, 1951 provides for qualifications for Members of Parliament (MPs) and Members of State Legislature (MLAs), which can be discussed under following heads:
Qualification for membership of the Council of States (section 3 of RPA, 1951)—A person has to be an elector for a parliamentary constituency in India to be qualified to be chosen as a representative of any State or UT in the Council of States. Thus, it is not necessary for a person to be an elector in that particular state or UT where he is contesting to be elected as a representative rather he can be an elector anywhere in India.
Section 3 of RPA in its original form required the condition of elector ‘in that state or territory’, but this requirement was dispensed by Representation of People (Amendment) Act, 2003 and it was substituted by elector ‘in India’. In 2006, the Supreme Court upheld the validity of this change in ‘Kuldip Nayar case’.
Qualifications for membership of the House of the People (section 4 of RPA, 1951)
- In order to contest a seat reserved for the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribe (other than those in the autonomous districts of Assam) in any State or Union Territory, he must be a member of any of the Scheduled Castes/Tribe, whether of that State or Union Territory or of any other State or Union Territory (excluding the tribal areas of Assam), and must be elector for any Parliamentary Constituency. However a member of Schedule Caste or Schedule Tribe can also contest a seat not reserved for them.
- In order to contest a seat reserved for the Scheduled Tribes in the autonomous districts of Assam, he must be a member of any of those Scheduled Tribes and must be an elector for the Parliamentary constituency in which such seat is reserved or for any other Parliamentary constituency comprising any such autonomous district; The protective mechanism as in case of Assam mentioned above applies to Lakshadweep and Sikkim.
Qualifications for membership of a State Legislature
- Qualifications for membership of a Legislative Assembly (Section 5 of RPA, 1951) In order to contest a seat reserved for the Scheduled Castes or for the Scheduled Tribes of that State or Union Territory, he must be a member of any of those castes or of those tribes, as the case may be, and must be an elector for any Assembly constituency in that State or Union Territory;
- In order to contest a seat reserved for an autonomous district of Assam, he must be a member of a Scheduled Tribe of any autonomous district and must be an elector for the Assembly constituency in which such seat or any other seat is reserved for that district; and
- In order to contest any other seat, he must be an elector for any Assembly constituency in that State or Union Territory.
- In order to be qualified to be chosen to fill any seat allocated to the Tuensang district in the Legislative Assembly of Nagaland for the period referred to in clause (2) of article 371A, he must be a member of the regional council referred to in that article.
Qualifications for membership of a Legislative Council
- In order to be qualified to contest a seat of Legislative Council of a State or Union Territory to be filled by election, he must be an elector for any Assembly constituency in that State.
- In order to be qualified to be chosen for a seat in the Legislative Council of a State or Union Territory to be filled by nomination by the Governor he must be an ordinarily resident in the State or Union Territory.
Some important cases and related to Representation of Peoples Act
- Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh had announced that the government had issued notifications for registration of overseas Indian electors under the Representation of People Act, 1950 to enable Indians resident abroad to participate in elections.
- Former state cabinet minister, Jagir Kaur, was booked under Section 123 of the act for bribing voters after the police seized 183 cases of liquor from the vehicles.
- The Allahabad high court invalidated found Indira Gandhi, who was the then Prime Minister, guilty on the charge of misuse of government machinery for her election campaign. The court declared her election null and void and unseated her from her seat in the Lok Sabha representing Rae Bareilly constituency. The court also banned her from contesting any election for an additional six years. This resulted in declaration of emergency and amendments were made in the constitution to validate the election.
- Umlesh Yadav is the first politician to be disqualified by the Election Commission of India for a period of three years for suppression of her election expenses incurred when she was elected as an MLA to the Bisauli constituency in the Uttar Pradesh state assembly elections, 2007.
Representation of the People (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2013
Lok Sabha on 6 September 2013 passed the Representation of the People (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2013. Rajya Sabha already passed the bill on 27 August 2013.
The Bill was passed in Lok Sabha without any discussion. The aim of the Representation of the People (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2013 is to add a proviso to sub-section (2) of section 62 of the RP Act.
It is important to note that on 10 July 2013, the Supreme Court of India upheld the decision of Patna High Court that people in police custody cannot contest the polls.
Supreme Court’s decision Section 8(4) of the Representation of People’s (RP) Act: A two-judge Supreme Court bench on July 10 struck down Section 8(4) of the Representation of People’s (RP) Act. Section 8(4) had provisions for convicted lawmakers to hold on to their seats provided they filed an appeal within three months of their conviction.
Section 8 of Representation of Peoples Act 1951
Section 8 deals with Disqualification of representatives on conviction for certain offences. This section states that :
- A person convicted of an offence punishable under certain acts of Indian Penal Code, Protection of Civil Rights Act 1955, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967, Prevention of Corruption Act 1988, Prevention of Terrorism Act 2002 etc. shall be disqualified, where the convicted person is sentenced to (i) only fine, for a period of six years from the date of such conviction; (ii) imprisonment, from the date of such conviction and shall continue to be disqualified for a further period of six years since his release.
- A person convicted for the contravention of—(a) any law providing for the prevention of hoarding or profiteering; or (b) any law relating to the adulteration of food or drugs; or (c) any provisions of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.
- A person convicted of any offence and sentenced to imprisonment for not less than two years [other than any offence referred to in sub-section (1) or sub-section (2)] shall be disqualified from the date of such conviction and shall continue to be disqualified for a further period of six years since his release.