Representation of People’s Act

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Representation of People’s Act

The Representation of People’s Act takes into consideration each person in India as it serves as the lawful foundation for elections that are conducted. Furthermore, Part XV, Elections, Articles 324 to 329 of the Indian Constitution allows the Parliament to regulate the electoral process. Moreover, this constitutional provision was framed to guarantee that elections are conducted in a manner that is free, fair, and impartial, hence reflecting the soul of democratic values.

Also Read: How is the President Elected?

History of the Representation of People’s Act

Universal Suffrage became an important element after India gained independence in 1947. They were aiming to establish a government that truly represented its citizens through the principle of Universal Adult Suffrage.

  • Article 325 of the Indian Constitution states this by guaranteeing that no person can be excluded from the electoral roll based on factors such as religion, race, caste, or sex.
  • To oversee this monumental task, the Election Commission of India (ECI) was established as an independent constitutional authority.
    • Hence beginning its operations on the 26th of November 1949. 
    • The ECI has an important part in overseeing the conduct of elections fairly and impartially.
  • For the inaugural general elections to the Vidhan Sabha and Lok Sabha, the first Delimitation Order was issued in August 1951.
    • This order by the President of India in consultation with the ECI and with the Parliament’s approval, defined the boundaries of Constituencies. Thus guaranteeing a structured and organised electoral process.

Also Read: How is the Speaker of the Lok Sabha Elected?

Pointers on Objectives of the Representation of People’s Act

The Representation of People’s Act represents essential Objectives necessary for a powerful electoral system:

  • Ensuring Free and Fair Elections
  • Preventing Electoral Malpractices
  • Promoting Transparency
  • Protecting Voter Rights
  • Facilitating Inclusive Participation

Also Read: 11 Features of Democracy in India

What are the Salient Features of the Representation of People’s Act 1950?

Since the Act was amended after just a year of introduction, there were minimal changes per se. However, there were additions in the 1951 Amendment. First, let us get through the initial Act of 1950.

Key Provisions of the 1950 Act

The Key Provisions of the Representation of People’s Act 1950 were as follows:

  • Seat Allocation: The allocation of seats in the Lok Sabha and the Legislative Assemblies and Councils of States. Hence confirming proportional representation.
  • Delimitation of Constituencies: Moreover, the Act states guidelines for the delimitation of constituencies. Thus making sure of a fair and balanced distribution of electoral areas.
  • Electoral Rolls Preparation: The Act lays down the procedure for the preparation of accurate and up-to-date electoral rolls that are required for conducting elections smoothly.
  • Voter Qualifications: It defines the qualifications required for people to be eligible voters. Thus guaranteeing the electorate includes those meeting specific criteria.

Seat Allocation

Each state’s representation in the Lok Sabha is largely determined by its population size based on census data, thus aiming for proportional representation across the country.

The Delimitation of Constituencies

The President of India holds the authority to amend constituency delimitation orders but must consult with the Election Commission of India (ECI) beforehand.

  • In the Lok Sabha, certain seats are reserved for Scheduled Castes(SC) and Scheduled Tribes(ST).
  • The ECI has the jurisdiction to decide which constituencies are to be reserved for STs in Mizoram, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Nagaland.

The Electoral Rolls Preparation

The 1950 Act allows the inclusion of people in electoral rolls who are regular residents of a Constituency, along with those holding specific qualifications:

  • Those with Service qualifications, such as members of the Armed forces, members of State armed police forces serving outside the state, or Central government employees stationed outside India.
  • Moreover, people holding certain offices in India, as declared by the President in consultation with the ECI.
  • Furthermore, the Act considers the wives of such people as being residents of India.
    • There is a proposed change to make terms gender-neutral by replacing the term ‘wife’ with ‘spouse’.

The Power to Make Rules

Under the Act, the Central government holds the authority to establish rules, with the option to consult the ECI in doing so.

  • Additionally, the Act prohibits Civil Courts from questioning the legality of actions taken by the Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) concerning the revision of electoral rolls.

The Electoral Officers

There are three electoral officers as per the Act, they are:

The Chief Electoral Officer (CEO)

In each State or Union Territory(UT), the ECI nominates or designates a CEO in consultation with the State government. 

  • The CEO is responsible for supervising the election-related tasks within the state/UT.
  • Additionally, the ECI appoints an officer of the State as the District Election Officer (DEO) after consulting with the State government. 
  • The DEO operates under the direct supervision and control of the CEO.

The Electoral Registration Officer (ERO)

The ERO is tasked with creating the voter list for every constituency, whether parliamentary or assembly.

  • If there is a disagreement or issue with the ERO’s decision during the voter list update, people can now appeal to the District Magistrate(DM).

The Returning Officer (RO)

The RO is assigned to supervise the election process within a constituency and declare the winning candidate. 

  • The ECI appoints a government or local authority official as the RO in collaboration with the State government.
The Representation of People’s Act 1950 Schedule List 
The First ScheduleAllocation of Seats in the House of the People. 
The Second ScheduleTotal Number of Seats in the Legislative Assemblies. 
The Third ScheduleAllocation of Seats in the Legislative Councils. 
The Fourth ScheduleLocal Authorities for Purposes of Elections to Legislative Councils. 

What are the Salient Features of the Representation of People’s Act 1951?

The Representation of People’s Act was introduced in Parliament by Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar. It was enacted by the Provisional Parliament under Article 327 of the Indian Constitution, before the First General Election.

Key Provisions of the 1951 Act

The 1951 Act is the governing framework for elections, managing their proper conduct. 

  • Additionally, it states the administrative infrastructure necessary for organizing elections which also includes by-elections. 
  • The Act also governs the registration process for political parties and sets out the criteria for membership in legislative bodies. Hence outlining both qualifications and disqualifications. 
  • It states measures to prevent electoral offences and corrupt practices. 
  • Moreover, the Act states the procedure for resolving uncertainties and disputes that may arise during the electoral process.

The Right to Vote

Apart from the constitutional provision in Article 326, which guarantees the Right to Vote to every citizen above 18 years unless disqualified by law, Section 62 of the 1951 Act also guarantees the Right to Vote for every person on the electoral roll of the constituency.

  • Under this provision, a person can vote in one constituency only and only once in a particular election. 
  • If a person is in prison under a sentence of imprisonment, they are not eligible to vote.
    • In 2014, the ECI clarified that people under preventive custody have the right to vote. However, this does not extend to under-trials and convicts.
  • Furthermore, the Act permits people serving sentences of less than 2 years to contest elections even while in prison.

Fascination Fact! The Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) is a system connected to Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) that gives voters the ability to verify that their votes are recorded accurately. Introduced in 2013, this system came into being after a Supreme Court of India verdict in the People’s Union for Civil Liberties vs. Union of India case. 

The Qualifications for Contesting Elections in India

The Act of 1951, outlines the qualifications required for contesting elections in India:

  • Constituency Elector Requirement: A candidate must be an elector in the constituency they wish to contest from.
  • Scheduled Caste/Tribe Representation: Those aspiring to contest a seat reserved for SC or ST must themselves belong to these communities from any State or UT.
  • Minimum Age for Legislative Assembly/Parliament: The minimum age to contest elections for Legislative Assemblies (MLAs) and Members of Parliament (MPs) in the Lok Sabha is 25 years.
  • Local Level Contesting Age: At the panchayat and municipality levels, the minimum age limit for contesting elections is 21 years.

The Voluntary Contributions

Furthermore, Registered political parties in India can accept voluntary contributions from any person or company within the country but that excludes government companies.

  • Companies are allowed to donate any amount of money to political parties without any obligation to report these donations in their profit and loss accounts.
  • Moreover, Political parties must submit a list of donations received above Rs. 2,000 to the ECI.
  • Political parties are restricted from receiving cash donations exceeding Rs. 2,000.
  • An update in the regulations now allows political parties to receive contributions from foreign companies. This is defined by the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act of 2010.

Section 126 of the 1951 Act

Section 126 states that 48 hours before the end of polling, it is forbidden to display any election-related content on television or similar devices in a constituency. 

  • However, it is important to note that this section does not apply to news portals, print media, or social media.
  • Additionally, Section 126A of the Act prohibits the conducting of Exit polls and the sharing of their results during the specified period.
    • This measure aims to maintain the integrity of the electoral process by preventing influence on voter decisions.

Amendments in the Representation of People’s Act after 1950

Here is a brief list of the Amendments made to the Representation of People’s Act after 1950: 

Amendments in the Representation of People’s Act after 1950
Amendments Changes/Provisions Added
Representation of People Act, 1951-Conducts elections in India. 
-Addresses corruption and illegal activities related to elections. 
-Provides provisions for dispute redressal in election matters. 
-Qualification and disqualification of MPs and MLAs.
Representation of the People (Amendment) Act, 1966-Abolished election tribunals, transferring election petitions to High Courts. 
-Supreme Court hears disputes regarding presidential and vice-presidential elections directly.
Representation of the People (Amendment) Act, 1988– Provisions for adjournment or countermanding of polling due to booth capturing and electronic voting machines (EVMs).
Representation of the People (Amendment) Act, 2002-Introduced Section 33A, providing the right to information for voters. 
-Contesting candidates must disclose prior convictions, accusations, and assets/liabilities.
Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill, 2010-Grants voting rights to NRIs, excluding the right to contest elections or vote in absentia.
The Representation of the People (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2013-Allows persons in police custody or jail to file nominations if on the electoral roll, despite voting prohibition.
Representation of People (Amendment) Bill, 2017-Lok Sabha passed a bill for NRI proxy voting and gender-neutral provisions.

Fascinating Fact! The None of the Above (NOTA) Option was introduced on ballot papers and EVMs during the General Election to the State Assemblies in 2013.

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