Representation of the People Act (RPA), 1950
- Key Provisions
- Lays down procedures for delimitation of constituencies.
- Provides for the allocation of seats in the House of the People and in the Legislative Assemblies and Legislative Councils of States.
- Lays procedure for the preparation of electoral rolls and the manner of filling seats.
- Lays down the qualification of voters.
- Delimiting Constituencies
- The President of India has been conferred the power to amend orders delimiting constituencies, only after consulting the ECI.
- In Lok Sabha, there is a reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
- The ECI has the power to determine the constituencies to be reserved for scheduled tribes in the states of Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura.
- Allocation of seats: As far as possible, every state gets representation in the Lok Sabha in proportion to its population as per census figures.
- Electoral Rolls
- The 1950 Act permits the registration of persons in electoral rolls who are ordinarily resident n a constituency and persons holding:
- Service qualification such as a member of armed forces, member of the armed police force of a state, serving outside the state, or central government employees posted outside India.
- Certain offices in India declared by the President in consultation with ECI.
- The wives of such persons are also deemed to be ordinarily residing in India. There is a proposal for making some provisions gender-neutral by replacing the term ‘wife’ with ‘spouse’.
- Chief Electoral Officer (CEO)
- Each state to have a CEO nominated or designated by the ECI in consultation with the state government to supervise the election work in the State/ UTs.
- The ECI also nominates or designates an officer of the state as the District Election Officer (DEO)in consultation with the state government
- The DEO works under the overall superintendence and control of the CEO.
- Electoral Registration Officer (ERO)
- The ERO is responsible for the preparation of the electoral roll for each constituency (parliamentary/assembly).
- An appeal against the order of the ERO during the update of the electoral rolls now lies with District Magistrate.
- Returning Officer(RO)
- RO is responsible for the conduct of the election in a constituency and returns an elected candidate.
- The ECI nominates or designates an officer of the government or local authority as the RO in consultation with the state government.
- Power to make rules under the act is conferred to the Central government, which can exercise this power in consultation with the ECI.
- The Civil Courts have also been barred to question the legality of any action of the ERO regarding revision of electoral rolls.
- Voting Rights: In 2010, voting rights were extended to citizens of India living abroad.
Salient Features of the Representation of People Act 1951
- 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
- The decision of doubts and disputes arising out of or in connection with such elections.
- By-elections to the vacant seats.
- Registration of political parties
Qualification for membership of the Lok Sabha: According to the act, a person shall not be qualified to be chosen to fill a seat in the Lok Sabha unless:
- He is a member of any Scheduled Caste of any state and is an elector for any Parliamentary constituency; in the case of a seat reserved for the Scheduled Castes in any State.
- He is a member of any Scheduled Tribe of any state and is an elector for any Parliamentary constituency in the case of a seat reserved for the Scheduled Tribes.
- He is an elector for any Parliamentary constituency; in case of any other seat.
Qualification for membership of the Rajya Sabha: A person shall not be qualified to be chosen as a representative of any State or Union territory in the Rajya Sabha unless he is an elector for a Parliamentary constituency.
Disqualification: Also, a person can be disqualified on various grounds. E.g.: corrupt practices, office of profit, person convicted of any offence and sentenced to imprisonment for not less than two years etc.
Election expenses: According to the section 77 of RPA, 1951, every candidate contesting in election to the House of the People or to the Legislative Assembly of a State, shall, either by himself or by his election agent, keep a separate and correct account of all expenditure in connection with the election incurred or authorized by him or by his election agent.
Corrupt practices: Section 123 defines the corrupt practices like bribery, undue influence, inciting religious sentiments, booth capturing etc.
Election disputes: The Representation of the People (Amendment) Act, 1966 abolished the election tribunals. It transferred the election petitions to the High Courts 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.
Apart from the above, RPA act is pivotal in preventing criminals being elected as representatives, is always quoted by Supreme Court and High Court in various judgments.
Section 8 deals with Disqualification of representatives on conviction for certain offences. The various sub-clauses include
- 8 ( 1 ):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.
- 8 ( 2 ):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.
- 8 ( 3 ):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.
- A fourth subsection, i.e., 8 ( 4 ) was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013 (Lily Thomas case). This subsection had provisions for convicted lawmakers to retain their seats if they filed an appeal within 3 months of their conviction.
- In 2013, the Patna High Court also debarred persons in judicial or police custody from contesting elections.