Q. Discuss the effectiveness of Representation of People’s Act for the smooth conduct of elections and in creating a meaningful democracy.
Ans. To ensure the conduct of free and fair elections to the Parliament and State Legislative Assemblies, the Representation of the People Act, 195o and Representation of People’s Act 1951 was enacted.
However, some disturbing facts are worth to be noticed. As per ADR data, 43% of MPs in current LS face criminal charges with 29% of the cases related to rape, murder, and attempt to murder or crime against women. An increase of 109% in the number of MPs with declared serious criminal cases since 2009 has also been noted.
THE REPRESENTATION OF THE PEOPLE ACTS
- Representation of People’s Act,1950 did not contain all the provisions relating to elections but merely provided for the allocation of seats and the delimitation of constituencies for the purpose of elections to the House of People and Legislatures of the States, the qualifications of voters at such election and the preparation of electoral rolls.
- The provisions for the actual conduct of elections to the Houses of Parliament and the House or Houses of the Legislature of each State, the qualifications and disqualifications for the membership of these Houses, the corrupt practices and other election offences, and the decision of election disputes were all left to be made in a subsequent measure. In order to provide for these provisions, the Representation of the People Act, 1951 was enacted.
THE EFFECTIVENESS OF REPRESENTATION OF PEOPLE’S ACTS
- Registration of political parties: Section 29A which is regarding registration of political parties with the Election Commission by which political parties get entitled to certain benefits. However, the EC had proposed to amend section 29A of the Representation of the People Act (RPA), 1951, authorizing it to issue apt orders, regulating the registration or deregistration of political parties. Lack of regulatory power is leading to mushrooming of political parties.
- Limitation of two seats: Section 33(7) that allows a candidate to fight from two seats at the same time. (This section was added after recommendation of Dinesh Goswami Committee to restrict candidates to contest from more than two seats earlier). However, it puts additional financial burden on public exchequer for holding a byelection against the resultant vacancy.
- Rules for disqualification of MP’s and MLA’s: Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 which lays down rules for disqualification of MP’s and MLA’s. As of now, disqualification rules are as follows: Section 8 (1), (2) of the Act disqualifies for a minimum period of six years irrespective of fine or imprisonment if any of the lawmakers are convicted of heinous crimes; causing enmity over religion, language or region; indulging in electoral violations etc. of section 8(3) disqualifies a lawmaker, convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for not less than two years, from the date of conviction and further six years from the time released. However, these provisions have not been effective in decriminalisation of politics.
- Corrupt Practices: Section 123(3) deals with abiding to “corrupt practices” for canvassing votes in an election. These corrupt practices which are outlined in Section 123 of the Act include, bribery and gratification, undue influence, booth capturing, making appeals on grounds of caste, race, community or religion, creating hatred or enmity between citizens on grounds of religion, etc., publication of false and defamatory matter, hiring or procuring of vehicles and vessels, incurring or authorizing excessive expenditure and seeking help from government employees. However, the role of corrupt practices in elections assumes new dimensions more particularly when the candidates and the political parties to which they belong are bent upon to win the election by using all means fair or foul.
- Restriction on polls: Section 126 of the RP Act prohibits displaying any election matter by means, inter alia, of television or similar apparatus, during the period of 48 hours before the hour fixed for conclusion of poll in a constituency. However, internet service providers and social media companies are outside the ambit of this provision so the purpose of this provision gets defeated.
- File for election expenses: Under Section 88 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, a candidate is required to submit an account of his election expenses. If he fails to do so without valid reasons, he can be disqualified for three years. If a candidate is found to have incurred expenditure in excess of the limit laid down under Section 77(3), he can be disqualified for a period up to six years, which means disqualification even for the next general election. However, these provisions placing limits on expenditure are not able to curb the flow of black money in Indian election.
The credibility of any democratic institution is dependent upon the purity of electoral process through which succession to this institution is to be made. In other words, if the elections are free and fair, then only there would be a true representation of the people in the Government. Thus, the Representation of People’s Act ensures this by framing rules for conduct of free and fair elections.