Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

Disqualification of a MP: Constitutional and Legal Issues


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Disqualification of MP, Constitutional provisions

Mains level: Disqualification of sitting MP's, Constitutional and legal issues

Central Idea

  • The recent conviction and disqualification of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi have raised some important constitutional and legal issues, especially related to the disqualification of members of the legislature. The interpretation of Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, and the role of the President in cases of disqualification is resurfaced again.

Background of the case

  • The Congress leader during campaigning for the 2019 parliamentary polls had made a remark, “How come all the thieves have Modi as the common surname?”
  • On the basis of this remark, a criminal defamation case was filed against him in a surat court by a BJP MLA who had alleged that the congress leader while addressing a poll rally in 2019 in Karnataka defamed the entire Modi community with his remark.
  • The Surat court on Thursday convicted the Congress leader in a criminal defamation case and awarded him a two-year jail term.
  • On basis of this, the Congress leader has been disqualified from the Lok Sabha,. A notice issued by the Lok Sabha Secretariat said that he stood disqualified from the House from March 23, the day of his conviction.

Disqualification under the Representation of the People Act (RPA), 1951

  • Grounds of disqualification: Section 8 of the RPA, 1951 specifies the various offenses, conviction for which entail the disqualification of a member of the legislature.
  • Clause (3): Clause (3) of this section says that a person convicted of any offense other than those mentioned in the other two clauses, and sentenced to not less than two years shall be disqualified from the date of conviction.
  • Exemption under clause (4): The clause (4) has exempted sitting members from instant disqualification for three months to enable them to appeal against the conviction.

Role of the President in Disqualification

  • President has the authority: Article 103 of the Indian Constitution provides the President of India as the authority who decides that a sitting member has become subject to disqualification in all cases which come under Article 102(1).
  • President’s adjudicatory and declaratory functions: There are differences of opinion on the scope of Article 103, but the Supreme Court, in Consumer Education and Research Society vs Union of India (2009), upholds the position that the President performs adjudicatory and declaratory functions here.

Flaws in the Judgment in Lily Thomas Case

  • Parliament cannot enact a temporary exemption: It says that Parliament cannot enact a temporary exemption in favor of sitting members of the Legislature.
  • Article 103 provides an exception: But Article 103 itself provides an exception in the case of sitting Members by stating that the disqualification of sitting Members shall be decided by the President.
  • Distinction between the candidates and sitting Members: The Constitution itself makes a distinction between the candidates and sitting Members. This was ignored by the judgment and the Court struck down the three months window given to the sitting members to enable them to appeal against their conviction.

Defamation in India

  • What is Defamation: Defamation refers to the act of publication of defamatory content that lowers the reputation of an individual or an entity when observed through the perspective of an ordinary man. Defamation in India is both a civil and a criminal offence.
  • The Laws which Deal with Defamation: Sections 499 and 500 of IPC: Sections 499 and 500 in the IPC deal with criminal defamation. While the former defines the offence of defamation, the latter defines the punishment for it.

Facts for prelims: Lily Thomas Verdict

  • The Lily Thomas verdict was a landmark judgment delivered by the Supreme Court of India in 2013.
  • The verdict struck down a provision in the Representation of the People Act (RPA), which allowed convicted lawmakers to continue in office if they filed an appeal within three months of their conviction.
  • The provision, which was part of Section 8(4) of the RPA, had been criticized for allowing convicted politicians to continue to hold public office while their appeals were pending in higher courts, and for contributing to the criminalization of politics in India.
  • The verdict was seen as a major step towards cleaning up Indian politics and ensuring that convicted criminals do not get to occupy public offices.


  • The recent conviction and disqualification of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi have raised important constitutional and legal issues related to the disqualification of members of the legislature. While the issues relating to the disqualification of Rahul Gandhi will be dealt with by the appellate courts, the legal and constitutional issues raised by this case need to be examined carefully

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