Important Provisions of The Representation of People Act 1951

The Representation of People Act 1951 is an important topic for the UPSC exam and can be asked in the prelims or mains. It is a part of polity and can be asked in General Studies Paper II of the IAS exam.

The Representation of People Act 1951 or the RPA 1951 deals with the electoral system in India. This act was passed by the Indian Parliament before the very first General Elections. It provides for the elections in our country. The act also talks about the terms and qualification/disqualification of the members of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, and also the state legislatures. 

Salient Features of the Representation of People Act 1951

  • Actual conduct of elections
  • Poll
  • Administrative machinery for the conduct of elections
  • By-elections
  • Election offences
  • Election disputes
  • Registration of political parties

It is this act that prevents the entry of criminals into the representative bodies, at least on paper. This act has been amended many times, the latest being in 2013.

The original RPA 1951 contains 13 parts and 171 sections. Part 2 deals with qualifications and disqualifications of the members of the parliament and the state legislatures. Part 4A deals with the registration of political parties. Part 5A deals with the free supply of certain materials to candidates of recognised political parties. Part 13A mentions the Chief Electoral Officer.

This act is important because it is cited judges frequently in preventing criminals from entering the electoral system and representative bodies of the country.

Section 8 of the RPA 1951

1 – A person convicted of an offence punishable under certain acts of Indian Penal Code, Protection of Civil Rights Act 1955, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967, Prevention of Corruption Act 1988, Prevention of Terrorism Act 2002 etc. shall be disqualified, where the convicted person is sentenced to — (i) only fine, for a period of six years from the date of such conviction; (ii) imprisonment, from the date of such conviction and shall continue to be disqualified for a further period of six years since his release.

2 – A person convicted for the contravention of—(a) any law providing for the prevention of hoarding or profiteering; or (b) any law relating to the adulteration of food or drugs; or (c) any provisions of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.

3 – A person convicted of any offence and sentenced to imprisonment for not less than two years [other than any offence referred to in sub-section (1) or sub-section (2)] shall be disqualified from the date of such conviction and shall continue to be disqualified for a further period of six years since his release.

A fourth subsection, i.e., 8(4) was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013. This subsection had provisions for convicted lawmakers to retain their seats if they filed an appeal within 3 months of their conviction.

In 2013, the Patna High Court also debarred persons in judicial or police custody from contesting elections.

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