The Representation of the People (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2013: Rajya Sabha, the upper House of the Indian Parliament, on August 27, unanimously passed a proposed amendment in the Representation of the People Act 1951 (RP) to negate a landmark Supreme Court order that could have brought fundamental (and desperately required) improvements in the conduct of the political class.
The Supreme Court decision united the whole political class in an unholy alliance to thwart the reform measure as they viewed it as something affecting the political career of many of their types, scores of the tainted politicians of the day.
Now, once approved from the Lok Sabha, the amended RP Act will be effective from July 10, 2013 and will negate the Supreme Court order passed on July 10, 2013 that said the people lodged in jails and convicted politicians could not contest elections. The Supreme Court, as per the RP Act, very logically had ruled that those who could not vote because of being in jails could not contest the polls either.
Let’s see what the sub-section (2) of the section (62) of the Representation of the People Act 1951 states:
62. Right to Vote. (2) – No person shall vote at an election in any constituency if he is subject to any of the disqualifications referred to in section 16 of the Representation of the People Act, 1950 (43 of 1950). (From the Law Ministry website)
Section 16 of the Representation of the People Act 1950: (From the website of the PRS Legislative Research)
16. Disqualifications for registration in an electoral roll — (1) A person shall be disqualified for registration in an electoral roll if he—
(a) is not a citizen of India; or
(b) is of unsound mind and stands so declared by a competent court; or
(c) is for the time being disqualified from voting under the provisions of any law relating to corrupt* * *practices and other offences in connection with elections
(2) The name of any person who becomes so disqualified after registration shall forthwith be struck off the electoral roll in which it is included:
[Provided that the name of any person struck off the electoral roll of a constituency by reason of a disqualification under clause (c) of sub-section (1) shall forthwith be re-instated in that roll if such disqualification is, during the period such roll is in force, removed under any law authorising such removal.]
With an ever increasing number of corrupt and criminal elements in Indian politics the authoritarian mentality in politicians saw it big threat coming, and in their usual style, amended the concerned section of the RP Act (sub-section (2) of section 62) on which the Supreme Court had based its decision. They did so even while they had already filed review petition in the apex court to review the decision.
The proposed amendment seeks to ‘subvert’ the provision of this section that disqualifies those in jails based on certain categories of unlawful behavior.
According to a Time of India report, “The Representation of the People (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2013, which was passed by the House, seeks to add a proviso to sub-section (2) of section 62 of the RP Act to state that a person cannot cease to be a voter while in detention as h/his right is only temporarily suspended.”
It further said: “One of the amendments states that as the name of the jailed person continues to be on the electoral rolls, s/he also continues to be an elector and can file nomination for an election.”
Though, today, the Supreme Court rejected the review petition to review its decision on convicted politicians (while accepting the same for politicians lodged in jails), it cannot be the said the political authoritarianism would not act to subvert it further.
Now, once the amendment is approved (some Constitutional or legal expert can tell it better, but if we go by the possibility), anyone (read politicians or their affiliates) in jail would be able to contest elections, the way they have been doing, making mockery of the Constitution, manipulating the democracy and humiliating the primary stakeholders of this Republic, the voters.
What is worrying is the frequent audacity, the recurrent brazenness of the political class to change or co-opt anything that is coming in its way. The practice was always there but it has grown at a deafening pace in recent times. The Representation of the People Act is just yet another democratic casualty while our politicians enjoy a highly subsidized lifestyle.
Their opulence humiliates the poverty of India.
Such moves are effectively blocking the possibilities to reform the Indian democracy.
©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/
*“Why India is in imminent danger of disintegration?’ is a regular column on my blogging platforms to take a periodic look (say a weekly or a fortnightly or a monthly round-up of events depending on the factors in play) on political developments that are dangerous to the democratic health of the country and contribute to the process of social disintegration of the nation..”