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Lily Thomas case and Section 8(4) of RPA

GS Paper 2

 Syllabus: RPA 1951

 

Source: TH

 Context: The article discusses the implications of the Lily Thomas case’s judgment that invalidated Section 8(4) of the Representation of People Act.

 

What is Lily Thomas case’s about and its judgement?

The Lily Thomas case pertains to the Supreme Court of India’s judgment that invalidated Section 8(4) of the Representation of People Act. This provision allowed a three-month period for convicted legislators to appeal before disqualification.

  • The court’s ruling led to instant disqualification upon conviction, impacting the careers of sitting legislators.
  • The judgment was based on the premise that Article 102(1) doesn’t distinguish between sitting members and candidates for disqualification.

 

Disqualification of MPs and MLAs under RPA, 1951:

  • Section 8(3) disqualifies MPs and MLAs convicted and jailed for 2+ years, leading to 6-year disqualification after release.
    • Convicted individuals on bail with pending appeals are ineligible for contesting elections.
  • Section 8(4) previously allowed convicted legislators to continue if they appealed within 3 months.
    • In Lily Thomas’s case, Supreme Court, July 2013, declared 8(4) unconstitutional, disqualifying on the date of conviction.

 

Issues with the Judgment in Lily Thomas Case:

IssuesDescription
1. Instant DisqualificationE.g., Recently Rahul Gandhi was disqualified immediately after his conviction in a defamation case.
2. Adverse impact on LegislatorsLegislators lose their seats due to quick disqualification without proper recourse.
3. Insufficient time for the appeal processLimited time for legislators to appeal and present their case for reversal.
4. Slow court proceduresCourts take extended periods for handling appeals, creating undue delays.
5. Differential TreatmentArticle 103 allows differentiation between sitting members and candidates for disqualification.
6. Role of PresidentThe suggested authority for declaring disqualification lies with the President under Article 103
7. Uncertainty about staying sentence/convictionWhether staying only sentence or both sentence and conviction can lift disqualification.
8. Limited impact on behaviourNo significant change was observed in politicians’ criminal records and behaviour due to the judgment.

 

Measures needed to address the issues arising from the judgment in the Lily Thomas case:

  • Review and Amendment: Consider amending section 8(4) of RPA, allowing a reasonable period for appeal before disqualification takes effect.
  • Clear Guidelines: Establish clear guidelines for the application of disqualification, including the role of the President in declaring disqualification.
  • Timely Appeals: Implement measures to expedite the appeals process to ensure that legislators have a fair and timely opportunity to present their cases.
  • Constitutional Safeguards: Consider introducing a constitutional amendment in Article 102 that provides protection against abrupt disqualifications.

 

Insta Links:

Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act, 1951

 

Mains Links:

Q. What is the significance of Section 8(3) of the Representation of the People (RP) Act, 1951? Examine the issues that have made it a topic of debate and discussion among constitutional experts. (15M)