“The ballot is stronger than the bullet.”Abraham Lincoln
With the same thoughts of providing certain provisions relating to elections, The Parliament of India on 17th July 1951 enacted an act called The Representation of People Act, 1951 which governs the election. The election which is governed is on two levels – on the central level it governs the election of House of Parliament and on the state level it governs the election of House of legislature of respective states. Under the ambit of the act various titles fall such as the qualification and disqualification of member, whether the members are using any corrupt practice or not, etc. With the aforementioned act, the election is governed on different levels in order to keep the elections fair and proper for the citizens of the country.
The constituent assemble which was set up for the formation of the constitution framed the constitution which came into force on 26 January 1950. The first general election was to be conducted on 25 October 1951, and right before the first election, the Representation of People’s Act was enacted under Article 327 of the Constitution. It was introduced in the Parliament by the father of the constitution – Dr B R Ambedkar.
Timeline of the Act
1950 – The government introduced Representation of People Act 1950 to regulate and govern the elections which would be held in the country. The act had provisions for the qualification of the voters, the seat allocation in Lok Sabha, whether one candidate be enrolled for more than one constituency, etc.
1951 – In the same manner, the Act of 1951 governs the elections to be held in the country. The addition in the act was that it also had provisions for illegal activities relating to election, dispute redressal in any matter related to elections and what are the qualifications for the member of parliament and member of legislative assembly.
1988 – The year saw the first amendment for the Representation of People Act. The Amendment added the provision for revocation of polling because of electronic voting machines.
2002 – This particular Amendment added Section 33A which is the provision for the right to information. With this provision the voters have the right to be aware of the antecedents of the candidates.
2010 – The Amendment Bill of 2010 conferred voting rights to Indians who were non resident Indians. The right given was of voting rights and not of contesting elections for the NRIs.
2013 – The bill was passed by both the houses of the Parliament which stated that a person who is in police custody or jail can file for nomination in election provided their name should be entered in the electoral roll.
2017 – Lok Sabha passed this bill which provided for proxy voting of non-resident Indians.
Representation of People Act 1950 –
The Representation of People Act 1950 had 32 sections which were divided in 8 parts for ease of understanding. The four schedules of the act laid down the following things in the respective order – allocation of seats in Lok Sabha, the total number of seats in Legislative assembly, total number of seat in Legislative Council and the local authorities responsible for the election of legislative council.
Salient Features of Representation of People Act 1950 –
- Qualification of the voters – the RPA 1950 provided that for a person to be qualified as a voter, the person would have to be a permanent resident of India and above the age of 18 years.
- Allocation of seat – allocation of seats for Lok Sabha and the state legislative assemblies and councils was necessary in order to maintain transparency as to how many elected members are needed. This is mentioned in Part II of the act.
- Preparation of electoral roll – this step helps in eliminating any duplicate voters from the voting list to ensure free and fair elections for all the citizens. Preparation of electoral roll for Parliamentary constituencies is mentioned in Part IIB, electoral roll for assembly constituencies is mentioned in Part III and electoral roll for council constituencies is mentioned in Part IV.
- Delimitation of constituencies – the provision for delimitation of constituencies help in drawing and redrawing the boundary for a certain constituencies for which they can be elected and can stand up for in the election. Along with drawing of boundary, the act also ensures the adjustment of seats according to the boundary. The provision is mentioned in Part II of the Act.
Salient Features of Representation of People Act 1951
- Qualification of elected representatives – the qualification of elected representatives in the Parliament as well as respective state assembly and council helps in ensuring the citizens that the members which are being elected and qualified for standing up in the election. In the act, from Section 3 to 5 provides for the provisions relating to qualification.
- Disqualification of elected representatives for membership – the act lays down certain provisions for the disqualification of a member from the Parliament or the state legislature. Disqualification of a member can happen on multiple grounds such as under Section 8 a member can be disqualified for certain offences for which they can be convicted, Section 8A – member who opts to use corrupt practices to win an election or influence the voters by using corrupt practices can be disqualified, etc. There are various other grounds discussed in Section 9 to 11B.
- Administrative machinery – the act provides certain provisions pertaining to the administrative machinery relating to the conduct of elections. This was a much-needed step in order to establish a supervisory head for the elected members. Under the act, for the purpose of administrative machinery, the general duties of the Chief electoral officer and other concerned authorities has been laid down.
- Registration of Political party – for any political party to contest in an election or to avail any feature of the act need to register themselves with the election commission. The necessary information which needs to be mentioned by the political party while registering are provided under Section 29A of the act.
- Conduct of elections – the act has laid down numerous sections which fall under the ambit of conduct of elections. The act enumerates the duty of the election commission and its authorities, the publication of the list of contesting candidates, how can a candidate withdraw their candidature, etc.
- Right to information – with the amendment, the act introduced a new provision which gives the right to information to the voter where the candidate will be required to furnish necessary information and whether they have been convicted for any offence or not in their nomination paper. This is laid down in Section 33A of the act which lets the voter know who their candidate is with necessary information before casting their vote.
- Capping of expenditure – the act provides a ceiling in terms of expenditure for the elections. For the Lok Sabha elections the total amount of expenditure should not cross 70 lakhs and for the state assembly elections, the total amount of expenditure should be of maximum 28 lakhs. This helps in keeping a check of the money spent in conducting the elections.
- Representation of People Act, 1951