This topic is part of the 'Salient features of Representation of People's Act' of General Studies paper which is important for both prelims and mains point of view. Here in the article, we have discussed important features of RPA 1950 and 1951 along with the important amendments made so far.
Representation of People's Act
The Indian Constitution, under its article 324 to 329 empowers the government to make provisions for the conduct of free and fair elections in the country. Based on this power, the government of India has devised some acts like the Representation of People Act 1950 and Representation of People Act 1951.
Representation of People Act 1950
In an attempt to regulate elections in the country for the first time, the government came up with the Representation of People Act, 1950. The act provides for:
- Allocation of seats in Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha.
- Delimitation of constituencies for elections in Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha
- Qualification of voters for such elections
- Preparation of electoral roll
Salient features of the Act
- The act provides for direct elections for filling seats in every constituency.
- The Delimitation Commission will determine the extent of the constituency of each state and Union Territory (except Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh).
- The Election Commission shall identify constituencies reserved for Scheduled Tribes in the states of Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura, and Nagaland.
- The President of India has the power to alter constituencies after consulting the Election Commission of India.
- The Election Commission, after consulting the Governor of the state will nominate a Chief Electoral officer and a district-level Election Commissioner after consulting the state government.
- An electoral roll will be prepared for every constituency. No person shall be enrolled for more than one constituency and may be disqualified if he/she is not a citizen of India or maybe of unsound mind and is debarred from voting.
- Only the Union government after consulting the Election Commission of India amend the rules under the act and any such amendment will not be available for judicial scrutiny under any Civil Court.
Representation of People Act, 1951
The Representation of People Act, 1951 is enacted by the provincial government of India to scrutinize the election process before the first general elections. The act provides for:
- The actual conduct of elections
- Qualification and grounds for disqualification of the members of both the houses of parliament and the state legislature
- The corrupt practices and other offences related to elections
- Dispute redressal regarding elections
Salient Features of the Act
- Only a qualified voter can contest elections of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
- On the seats reserved for SCs and STs, only candidate belonging to that category can contest the election.
- The elector can contest election in any constituency irrespective of the state/Union Territory where the electorate is present for which he/she is eligible to vote.
- If a person is found guilty for promoting enmity, hatred between classes, bribery, influencing elections, rape or other heinous crimes against women, or spread religious disharmony, practice untouchability, import-export prohibited goods, sell or consume illegal drugs and other chemicals or terrorism in any form or may have been imprisoned for at least 2 years shall be disqualified for six years after his/her release from the jail to contest elections.
- The person shall also be disqualified if he/she is found engaged in corrupt practices or excluded for related government contracts.
- Declaration of electoral expenses is a must, failing which will lead to disqualification of the candidate.
- Every political party must be registered with the Election Commission of India whose decision regarding this will be final.
- In case of any changes in the name or address of the political party, the party must intimate the Election Commission as soon as it does so.
- A political party may take donations from any of the person or company within India except the government-owned companies. Foreign contributions are not allowed.
- Every political party must report the donation of more than ₹20,000 received from any person or company.
- National Party: If a party gets minimum 6 per cent of valid votes for assembly elections in more than four states or wins at least 2 per cent seats in Lok Sabha from at least three states is recognized as a National Party.
- State Party: If a political party gets a minimum 6 per cent of the votes in the state assembly elections or wins at least 3 per cent of total seats in the state assembly will be a state political party.
- The candidate must declare his/her assets and liabilities within 90 days from his/her oath-taking day.
- Petitions related to elections shall be filled in High Court and can be appealed in Supreme Court. The High Court must conclude the petition within six months of its filling. The decision in such case should be intimated to the Election Commission. It can be appealed in the Supreme Court within 30 days.
- The Election Commission has powers similar to the Civil Court to summon and enforce any person or any evidence. It can regulate its procedure.
- For elections-related works, people from local authorities, universities, government companies, and other institutions under state or centre governments shall be provided to the Election Commission.
- The candidate should deposit ₹25000 as security for Lok Sabha elections, and all other polls ₹12500 should be deposited. SC/St candidates get 50 per cent concession in security deposition.
Various Offenses related to Elections defined under the act
- Promoting enmity and hatred
- Booth capturing and removal of ballot papers
- Breach of official duty and supporting any candidate
- Selling liquor within two days before polling to its conclusion
- Calling for public meetings within 48 hours before voting and creating disturbances
Representation of the People (Amendment) Act, 1966
- It abolished the election tribunals and transferred the election petitions to the high court’s 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.
Representation of the People (Amendment) Act, 1988
- It provided for adjournment of poll due to booth capturing and Election Voting Machines.
Representation of the People (Amendment) Act, 2002
- New section 33A related to Right to Information was inserted in the 1951 act.
Representation of People (Amendment) Bill, 2017
- The bill seeks to amend the Representation of People Act, 1950 and the Representation of People Act, 1951 to allow proxy voting by NRIs by inserting a sub-section in section 60 of Representation of People Act, 1951 and to make provisions of the acts gender-neutral, like replacing the term ‘wife’ in section 20A of the Representation of People Act, 1950 with ‘spouse’.
- The amendment will satisfy the demand for voting rights by NRIs.
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