Elections form the support of Indian Democratic system. Indian democratic setup gives on us the right to elect the representatives of the state.
The Representation of People Act, 1951 is an act of Parliament of India which provides the conduct of elections of the Houses of Parliament and to the House or Houses of the Legislature of each State, the qualifications and disqualifications for membership of those Houses, the 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 endorsed by the provisional parliament under Article 327 of Indian Constitution, before the first general election. The act also manages issues like qualification and disqualification of members of both houses of Parliament (Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha) and the state legislatures (State Legislative Assembly and State Legislative Council).
The acts were modified many times but one of the noteworthy alterations is the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act, 1966 (47 of 1966), which eliminated the election tribunals and transferred the election petitions to the High Court whose orders can be appealed to Supreme Court.
However, election disputes regarding the election of President and Vice-President are directly heard by the Supreme Court.
It was established that after India’s independence, an elected constituent assembly was set up to develop the constitution. Most of the articles of the constitution came into force on 26 January 1950, the Republic Day. Part XXI of the constitution contained the translational provisions.
Articles 379 and 394 of Part XXI which contained provisions for provisional parliament and other articles which contained provisions like citizenship came into force on 26 November 1949, the date on which the constitution was drafted. The provisional parliament enacted the Act vide Act No.43 of 1951 for the first general election conducted on 25 October 1951.
Representation of Peoples Act 1950 (RPA Act 1950) offers for the following conduct
- Qualification of voters
- Preparation of electoral rolls
- Delimitation of constituencies
- Allocation of seats in the Parliament and state legislatures
Highpoints of RPA Act 1951
- Actual conduct of elections
- Administrative machinery for conducting elections
- Election offences
- Election disputes
- Registration of political parties
The Representation of People Act, 1951 has great significance for good functioning of Indian egalitarianism because it checks the entry of persons with illegal background into the representative bodies.
Prominent features of the Representation of People’s Act
- Part 21 of 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.
- Citation is Article No 43 of 1951.
- 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.).
- Expressions not used in 1951 act, but listed in Representation of the People Act 1950 (43 of 1950) have the same meaning.
- Chief Electoral Officer is mentioned in section 13A.
- Corrupt practices are mentioned in section 123.
- 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.
The recent RPA (Amendment and Validation) bill which was initiated in Rajya Sabha during monsoon session was enacted on the same day and later was sent to Lower House Lok Sabha where the bill got finally passed on September 06, 2013.
The Bill seeks to modify the Representation of People Act, 1951 (RPA, 1951).
The two major amendments were done in Bill that includes:
- A person can file his nomination even though he is shunned from being voting owing to be in jail or in police custody during elections or before.
- The past act has not defined on what grounds, a person can be disqualified. In this act the grounds are clearly stated as disqualification can be on conviction for certain specified offences and can be on no other ground. As a result if one is proved for any conviction of any one of the offences, then his/her name will be wiped off from electoral roll and shall cease to be a voter.
What is 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 —
- only fine, for a period of six years from the date of such conviction;
- 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—
- any law providing for the prevention of hoarding or profiteering; or
- any law relating to the adulteration of food or drugs; or
- 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.
- Notwithstanding anything 8[in sub-section (1), sub-section (2) or sub-section (3)] a disqualification under either subsection shall not, in the case of a person who on the date of the conviction is a member of Parliament or the Legislature of a State, take effect until three months have elapsed from that date or, if within that period an appeal or application for revision is brought in respect of the conviction or the sentence, until that appeal or application is disposed of by the court.
The fourth point above was the controversial Section 8(4) clause of the Representation of Peoples Act which was struck down by the Supreme Court calling the Act ultra-vires of the Constitution and providing for disqualification of MPs/MLAs on the day of their conviction.
How is RPA, 1951 different from the provisions related to elections in Constitution of India?
Part XV of Indian Constitution is ELECTIONS, which includes Articles 324 to 329. This part of the Constitution provides for Election Commission (Art.324), universal suffrage (Art.325) and adult suffrage (Art.326).
Article 327 enables Parliament to enact provisions for elections and Article 328 provides that states can enact provisions for house or houses of the state legislature, if the Centre has not provided for the same.
Under Article 329, courts are barred from questioning the Delimitation Act brought by the Parliament and it also mentions that disputes related to elections can be called in question only by an election petition in a manner provided by and to the authority decided by the appropriate legislature.
Accordingly, the Parliament under Article 327 enacted certain provisions, among others, namely:
- The Representation of People Act 1950, which provides for allocation of seats and delimitation of constituencies of the Parliament and state legislature, officers related to conduct of elections, preparation of electoral rolls and manner of filling seats in the Council of States allotted to Union Territories.
- The Representation of People Act, 1951, which provides for the conduct of elections of the Houses of Parliament and to the House or Houses of the Legislature of each State, the qualifications and disqualifications for membership of those Houses, the 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.
- Delimitation Commission Act of 1952, which provides for the readjustment of seats, delimitation and reservation of territorial constituencies and other related matters.
- The Presidential and Vice-Presidential Election Act 1952, which provides for the conduct of Presidential and Vice- Presidential election and mechanism for the settlement of any dispute arising out of such elections.