Today we will discuss Corrupt act: In Accordance to the Representation of People Act, 1951 in our today's edition of Current Affairs. Read further to upgrade your UPSC CSE knowledge and also understand the topic’s relevance to the UPSC syllabus.
For Prelims: Indian Polity and Governance
Corrupt act, The Representation of People Act, 1951, The Supreme Court, Sections 123(2) and 123(4) of the Representation of the People's Act, 1951, Anugrah Narayan Singh v. Harsh Vardhan Bajpayee, Article 324 to 329 of Part XV of the Constitution
For Mains: GS Paper II (Judiciary)
Background to the Supreme Court's decision, About ‘corrupt practices’ under the RPA, 1951, The Representation of the People Act, Practices that held corrupt practices in the past
Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that Sections 123(2) and 123(4) of the Representation of the People's Act, 1951, cannot be used to define what constitutes a "corrupt practice".
- The verdict of the supreme court came in relation to a petition regarding false information about an electoral candidate's qualifications.
What is a ‘corrupt act’ according to the Representation of the People Act, 1951? (150 words, 10 marks)
Background to the Supreme Court's decision
- In "Anugrah Narayan Singh v. Harsh Vardhan Bajpayee," a petition was filed claiming that Harsh Vardhan Bajpayee engaged in "corrupt practice" in violation of Section 123(2) by interfering with voters' ability to exercise their right to vote freely by failing to disclose his liabilities and accurate educational credentials in his affidavit of nomination.
- It further argued that publishing a false statement of fact about his character and behavior to knowingly influence the result of his election constituted a "corrupt practice" under Section 123(4).
- The Allahabad High Court ruled in this case that "the inaccuracy or concealment regarding the respondent's educational qualification did not amount as a corrupt practice within the meaning of Section 123 of the Representation of People Act."
About ‘corrupt practices’ under the RPA, 1951
- Section 123 of the Act defines ‘corrupt practices’ to include bribery, undue influence, false information, and promotion or attempted promotion of “feelings of enmity or hatred between different classes of the citizens of India on grounds of religion, race, caste, community, or language” by a candidate for the furtherance of his prospects in the election.
- Section 123 (2) deals with ‘undue influence’ which it defines as “any direct or indirect interference or attempt to interfere on the part of the candidate or his agent, or of any other person, with the consent of the candidate or his election agent, with the free exercise of any electoral right.”
- This could also include threats of injury, social ostracism and expulsion from any caste or community.
- Moreover, convincing a candidate or an elector that they will become “an object of divine displeasure or spiritual censure” will also be considered an interference “with the free exercise of the electoral right of such candidate or elector.”
- Section 123 (4) extends the ambit of “corrupt practices” to the intentional publication of false statements which can prejudice the outcome of the candidate’s election.
- An elected representative can be disqualified under the provisions of the Representation of People Act, 1951, if convicted of certain offenses; on grounds of corrupt practices; for failing to declare election expenses; and for interests in government contracts or works.
The Representation of the People Act, 1951:
Background of the RPA Act:
- Article 324 to 329 of Part XV of the Constitution deals with the electoral system in our country.
- The Constitution allows Parliament to make provisions in all matters relating to elections to the Parliament and State Legislatures.
- In the exercise of this power, the Parliament has enacted laws like Representation of the People Act 1950 (RPA Act 1950), Representation of the People Act 1951 (RPA Act 1951).
About the RPA Act:
- The Representation of Peoples Act was passed by the parliament under Article 327 of the constitution.
- It provides for the conduct of elections to the parliament and state legislatures.
- It also clarifies about the qualifications and disqualifications for membership in those Houses.
Significance of the RPA Act:
- The Act provides guidelines to the Election Commission for free and fair conduct of election.
- The Representation of the People (Amendment) Act, 1966 abolished the election tribunals.
- It transferred the election petitions to the High Courts whose orders can be appealed to the Supreme Court.
Exception: Election disputes regarding the election of the president and vice-president are directly heard by the Supreme Court.
Practices that held corrupt practices in the past
- The Supreme Court of India ruled in "Abhiram Singh v. C.D. Commachen" in 2017 that Section 123 (3) of the RPA forbids candidates from soliciting votes on the basis of a candidate's race, religion, caste, community, or language. If this occurs, the election will be declared invalid.
- However, in the dissenting opinion, CJI DY Chandrachud along with Justices UU Lalit and AK Goel said, “To hold that a person who seeks to contest an election is prohibited from speaking of the legitimate concerns of citizens that the injustices faced by them on the basis of traits having an origin in religion, race, caste, community or language would be remedied is to reduce democracy to an abstraction.”
- According to the Supreme Court's decision in "SR Bommai v. Union of India'' (1994), religion cannot be incorporated into any State-sponsored secular activity. The court added that sub-section (3) of Section 123 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 makes it clear that the encroachment of religion into secular activities is strictly prohibited.
- However, even as far back as 1955, the Apex Court in “Jamuna Prasad Mukhariya v. Lacchi Ram” upheld the constitutional validity of Section 123 (3).
- In Collegium v. NJAC (2022), the top court ordered that its 2013 decision in "S. Subramaniam Balaji v. State of Tamil Nadu" be reevaluated in light of the current debate over judge appointments. The judge ruled that freebie promises cannot be referred to as a corrupt practice. However, a decision has not yet been made.
News Source: The Indian Express
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Section 8A of Representation of Peoples Act 1951?
The Representation of Peoples Act of 1951's Section 8A addresses disqualification due to corrupt behavior.
What is Representation of Peoples Act 1951?
The Representation of Peoples Act was passed by the parliament under Article 327 of the constitution. It provides for the conduct of elections to the parliament and state legislatures. It also clarifies the qualifications and disqualifications for membership in those Houses.
What is Section 31 of the Representation of People Act 1951?
Public notice of elections is covered in Section 31 of the Representation of Peoples Act of 1951. The returning officer must issue a public notice regarding a notification under Section 30.
What is Section 33a of Representation of Peoples Act?
The Representation of Peoples Act of 1951's Section 33a addresses the right to information.
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