The Rajya Sabha on 27 August 2013 unanimously passed the Representation of the People (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2013 to amend the Representation of the People (RP) Act, 1951. The bill will turn over the order of Supreme Court to ban the people in custody or jail from contesting the elections. The amendment, after being approved by the Lok Sabha, will maintain rights of people in jail to contest polls.
The Representation of the People (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2013 being passed by the Rajya Sabha seeks to add the provision to sub-section (2) of section 62 of the Representation of the People (RP) Act, 1951. The sub-section (2) of section 62 states that a person is not ceased to be a voter while being in detention because his/her rights are only temporarily suspended.
It is important to note that on 10 July 2013, the Supreme Court of India upheld the decision of Patna High Court that people in police custody cannot contest the polls.
What is the Representation of People Act, 1951?
The Representation of People Act, 1951 is the Act of Parliament of India, which explains about the conduct of the elections of both the Houses of the Parliament. The Act also explains about the qualifications and disqualifications for the membership of these houses, offences or the corrupt practices.
The Act came into force by the provisional parliament under Article 379 of Indian Constitution. The Representation of People Act, 1951 was amended various times. The most notable amendment was the one which abolished election tribunals. The election petitions were thus transferred to the High Courts of India, the orders of which could be appealed to the Supreme Court of India.
Rulings of the Supreme Court of India and the Representation of the People (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2013
The Supreme Court of India, in the case of Chief Election Commissioner vs Jan Chowkidar, on 10 July 2013 upheld the decision of the Patna High Court that any person confined in prison or lawful police custody is not entitled to vote under the Section 62 of The Representation of the People Act (RPA), 1951. Also, the Apex Court gave its verdict that the imprisoned person is not entitled to contest the elections to the Parliament of India or the State Legislatures.
The Supreme Court of India in the case of Lily Thomas vs Union of India, held the decision that Section 8(4) of the RPA that enables the MPs and MLAs who are convicted of any crime or illegal offence while serving the term as the members, to continue in the office until the appeal has been disposed off against the conviction, is absolutely unconstitutional.