Amendments to Representation of People Act

 

The Union Cabinet approved amendments to the Representation of People Act to negate a Supreme Court order on immediate disqualification of convicted MPs and MLAs.

The Representation of People Act, 1951(RPA) is an act of Parliament of India to provide 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. The Act was enacted by the provisional parliament under Article 379 of Indian Constitution, before the first general election. The acts were amended several times, but one of the notable amendments is the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act, 1966 (47 of 1966), which abolished the election tribunals and 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.

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In the Chief Election Commissioner vs Jan Chowkidar case , in 2013 , a two-judge bench of the Supreme court held that since any person confined in prison or in lawful custody of the police is not entitled to vote under Section 62 of The Representation of the People Act (RPA), 1951, the incarcerated person shall also not be entitled to contest elections to Parliament or state legislatures.In the same year in the Lily Thomas vs Union of India case , the same bench of the SC held that Section 8(4) of the RPA, which allows MPs and MLAs who are convicted while serving as members to continue in office till an appeal against such conviction is disposed of, is unconstitutional.

The two proposals were approved in the form of amendments to the Representation of People Act and separate bills will be tabled in Parliament related to them.

As per one amendment, an MP, MLA or MLC cannot be disqualified after conviction if he or she files an appeal within 90 days from the date of conviction and such conviction is stayed.  A proviso added to sub-section (4) of section 8 of the RP Act makes it clear that the convicted member shall continue to take part in proceedings of Parliament or Legislature of a state but he or she shall neither be entitled to vote nor draw salary and allowances till the appeal or revision is finally decided by the court.

Another amendment cleared by the Cabinet adds a provision to sub section (2) of section 62 of the RP Act to state that a person cannot cease to be a voter while in detention as his or her right is only temporarily suspended.  It further states that as the name of person in jail continues to be on electoral role, he or she also continues to be an elector and file nomination for election.

The development came after all major political parties backed the government on the move to amend the Act to negate the impact of the apex court verdict directing immediate disqualification of MPs and MLAs on being sentenced for more than two years in a criminal case.

 

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