Salient features of Representation of People’s Act

Previous Year’s Questions:

1.In the light of the recent controversy surrounding the usage of EVM’s, what are the challenges before the Election Commission of India to ensure the trustworthiness of elections in india?-2018

2.On what grounds can a people’s representative be disqualified under RPA-1951?Also mention remedies available to such a person against the disqualification?-2019

3.To enhance the quality of democracy in India ECI has proposed electoral reforms in 2016.What are the suggested reforms and how far are they significant in making democracy successful?-2017

Right Approach to prepare for these type of election related questions in the forthcoming mains:

UPSC clearly sticks to its mentioned syllabus “Salient features of Representation Act” when it asks these type of questions. A clear knowledge is required about the objectives of both RPA 1950 and RPA 1951.

RPA 1950 has been enacted by the Parliament to conduct elections,to register Parties and voters. It is procedural in nature that governs the entire election related activities that happens before elections such as preparation of electoral rolls, registering voters, deciding how many seats should be allotted to different states etc.

whereas

RPA 1951 deals with ECI to Regulate the Behaviour of the Political Parties and the Candidates. RPA 1951 gives wide powers to the ECI to make sure democracy is kept strong by preventing criminal elements from entering into the Legislature.RPA 1951 aims to decriminalize politics. This is achieved by the various disqualification Provisions that are dealt with in the RPA 1951.A list of what constitutes “Corrupt Practices” are also mentioned in RPA 1951.From the perspective of Mains Exam, RPA 1951 is more important than RPA 1950. It is hence advisable to atleast remember the broad aspects of RPA 1951, the loopholes in the law or the insufficient aspects of RPA 1951 and the mechanisms that need to be adopted to rectify the issues.

Salient Features of Representation of People’s Act:

RPA 1950 differs from RPA 1951.Though both are legislations made by the Parliament of India to deal with election related matters,a clear understanding of the differences between the two is necessary to identify those sections of the RPA that tends to be frequently misused.Election related reforms have come into effect by a constinuous process of amending various provisions of both the RPA’s.

RPA 1950- What is the Subject matter?

  1. Delimitation of Constituencies for elections to House of People and to the State Legislative Assembly and Legislative Councils.
  2. Qualifications of Voters to above mentioned Houses.
  3. Preparation of Electoral Rolls.
  4. Manner of Filling the members in Rajya Sabha from the Union Territories.

RPA 1951-What is the Subject Matter?

  1. Conducting Elections to both houses of Parliament and to State Legislatures.
  2. DIsqualifications to the above mentioned bodies.
  3. Corrupt Practices in Elections
  4. Disputes regarding elections to these houses.

What sections of RPA are in news?

1.Sections 20(6) of RPA 1950:

As discussed above RPA 1950 deals with Qualifications to be recognized as a Voter for Elections.

The most fundamental criteria to be recognized as a Voter is to be an Ordinary Resident in that constituency.Sxn 20 of RPA 1950 defines the term “Ordinary Resident” and it states different categories of persons who come under the definition of Ordinary Resident.

Why Section 20(6) is in news?

Sxn 20(6) of RPA recognizes the ‘wife’ of a member who works in armed forces(service voters). SInce the wife of the service voter resides along with her husband she is recognized as a ordinary resident in her constituency and hence she can vote in the elections in her constituency.However it does not recognize the husband of female officers/female members of armed forces.Hence this section Sxn 20(6) needs to be amended to recognize the husbands of female service voters as well.

2.Sxn 8 of RPA 1951:

In order to have a clean political system, it is essential that certain sections of the society such as criminals should be prevented from becoming MP’s and MLA’s.

Hence Disqualification provisions have been made in RPA 1951.Sxn 8 of RPA prevents those convicted for offences such as terrorism, untouchability, corruption etc from becoming MP’s and MLA’s.

Why is it in news?

Frequently we find legislators in Parliament as well as in State legislators to have Criminal Cases Pending against them.SInce it takes years for Judiciary to complete the trial due to certain slow procedures to be be followed, these type of legislators continue to enjoy the position of being an MP or an MLA.

Earlier there was Sxn 8(4) that provided immunity to legislators even after their conviction.This section allowed the convicted criminals to continue being a MP/MLA even if the court has declared them to be guilty.However this Sxn 8(4) was declared as unconstiutional by the Supreme Court in the famous Lily Thomas vs Union of India.Since then MP’s and MLA’s as soon as declared guilty by the court become disqualified under Sxn 8 of RPA 1951 and hence they have to vacate their seats immediately in the house.

Recent Controversy:

Though by striking down Sxn 8(4) of RPA 1951 as void,still criminal elements continue to become legislators by taking advantage of Judicial Delay. Hence the time to fast track cases has now become a necessity.

Solution to this problem:

The Law Commission has recommended that the Central Government should set up fast track cases to dispose of Criminal Cases pending against such criminal legislators within a time frame of 1 year.

Incase of any further delay in disposing such cases, those MP’s and MLA’s with criminal cases pending against them shall lose their right to vote in the parliament and in state legislatures.This recommendation is yet to be implemented by the Government of India.

3.Sxn 125A of RPA 1951:

What is Sxn 125A of RPA 1951?

Sxn 125A deals with punishment to those candidates who do not declare their criminal antecedents or files false affidavit while filing their nomination to contest in Elections.The punishment under Sxn 125A of RPA 1951 is either fine or imprisonment for a maximum period of 6 months

Why is it in news?

The reason why many candidates file false affidavits or do not declare their criminal antecedents is because of the very minor punishment as provided in this Sxn 125A of RPA 1951.The election commission has proposed to the government that Sxn 125A be amended so as to make the offence of filing false affidavits punishable by imprisonment upto 2 years.This imprisonment period would now attract Sxn 8 of RPA 1951 and hence the candidate becomes liable to be Disqualified for a further period of 6 years.

4.Sxn 11 of RPA 1951:

What is Sxn 11 of RPA 1951?

It is the power of the Election Commission of India to reduce the period of DIsqualification of Convicted Legislators.Sxn 8 of RPA 1951 disqualifies those who are convicted for any offence for which the period of imprisonment is 2 years or more.Such convicted cannot contest for elections to Parliament or to the State Legislature for a further period of 6 years.By using Sxn 11 the ECI can reduce this period of Disqualification of 6years.

Why is it in the news?

Former Sikkim Chief Minister Prem SIngh Tamang had been convicted for misappropriation of Public Funds during his tenure.Hence Sxn 8 of RPA 1951 applies to him and hence he is disqualified for a period of 6 years untill 2024. The Election Commission of India had reduced this period of Disqualification from 6 years to 13 months.

 The criticism of this move by ECI is that it can lead to a very dangerous precedent in the future wherein the utility of Disqualification provisions under Sxn 8 of RPA itself can be destroyed.

5.Sxn 10A of RPA 1951:

What is Sxn 10A of RPA 1951?

It is the provision in RPA 1951 that leads to proper reporting of election expenses incurred by a candidate in elections. The ECI has been given powers under the Constitution to frame rules for the purpose of conducting elections to parliament and state legislatures.Hence, the ECI has made Conduct of Election Rules 1961.Under this rules made, each candidate has to declare the expenses within a stipulated time so that the ECI can verify if the expenditure was within the ceiling limits.

Incase a member fails to report the exact expenses incurred by him during the elections within 30 days then in that case he can be disqualified under Sxn 10A of RPA 1951.

Why is this in news?

A Private Members Bill has been recently introduced in the Parliament to do away with this cap on expenditure.The member is of the opinion such artificial,unenforceable limits is the reason for under reporting of expenditure in the elections.

6.Sxn 33(7) of RPA 1951:

What is Sxn 33(7) of RPA 1951?

It is the provision that deals with the number of constituencies from which a candidate can contest from in Elections to Lok Sabha and to State Legislative Assembly.As of now as per this Sxn, a candidate can simultaneously contest from 2 constituencies.

Why is it in news?

Many candidates such as Narendra Modi,Naveen Pattanaik, Jayalalithaa have in the past as well as present contest from two constituencies inorder to prove their political clout.However after winning the elections from both the constituencies , they will have to vacate one of the seats. This places an unnecessary burden on the state exchequer and on the Election Commission to once again conduct the elections.

Solution to this problem:

The ECI in its proposal on Electoral Reforms has come up with a solution to this problem. The ECI suggests that those candidates who desire to contest from 2 constituencies shall deposit a sum of Rs. 5 lakh and Rs. 10 lakh for Assembly Election and Lok Sabha Election respectively. Incase if the candidate wins from both the seats and he/she decides to vacate one of the seat, then the security deposit shall be forfeited by the ECI.This would be the right move to reduce the burden on the Public Exchequer in the event of conducting fresh elections once again.

7.Sxn 60 of RPA 1951:

What is Sxn 60 of RPA 1951?

It is the provision that prescribes a special procedure for voting to certain class of persons.The special procedure of voting would mean either by postal ballot or by proxy voting.

Postal Ballot is for the purpose of casting one’s vote through post sent from the place where the person resides due to his employment or service in the government.

Proxy voting would mean another person casting vote on one’s behalf.

Why is it recently in news?

 The Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had introduced an amendment bill to change Sxn 60 of RPA 1951 so as to include NRI’s to become eligible for Postal or Proxy Voting. Currently NRI’s cannot vote through Postal Ballot or Proxy Vote. The only way in which they can cast their vote is by being physically present on the day of polling in their respective constitutency. Since it is not practically possible for NRI’s to travel to India just for the purpose of voting in elections this amendment has been proposed to Sxn 60 of RPA 1951.