The Representation of the People Act, 1951
The Representation of the People Act, 1951, pertains to the conduct of elections for the Houses of Parliament and the Houses of the Legislature of each state, from the notification of elections to the resolution of election disputes. The Act specifies the procedures to be followed by the Election Commission of India (ECI), an autonomous Constitutional body that administers national and state elections. The Act mentions what qualifies or disqualifies a candidate from contesting elections; defines corrupt practice; mandates the registration of political parties; and stipulates the procedure for the nomination of candidates, polling and the declaration of election results. The Act also confers the right to vote on every person whose name is on the electoral roll.
When can a person be disqualified from contesting elections for the Houses of Parliament or the Houses of the Legislature of a state?
Section 8 of this Act states that a person convicted of any offence and sentenced to at least two years of imprisonment shall be disqualified from contesting elections for six years from the date of the conviction.
What is the role of election officials?
As per Section 20 of the Act, the chief electoral officer of each state supervises the conduct of the elections in that state under the supervision and direction of the ECI. Section 21 states that the ECI can appoint a returning officer who is responsible for overseeing the electoral process in one or more constituencies. As per section 27, the ECI can depute a presiding officer to conduct the poll at a polling station.
Section 20 also says that the ECI can nominate an observer to watch over the conduct of elections in a constituency or a group of constituencies. He/she can direct the returning officer to stop the counting of votes at any time before the declaration of the election result. He/she can also decide to not declare the election result if booth capturing has taken place or ballot papers have been removed from the returning officer’s custody, or they have been destroyed, lost, damaged or tampered with.
What does the Act say about financial contributions to political parties?
Section 29B of the Act states that a registered political party can accept a contribution that is offered voluntarily by a person or a private company. Section 29C says that a political party is required to disclose only those contributions that are more than Rs. 20,000.
How many places can a person contest elections from?
Section 33 says a person cannot contest elections from more than two constituencies for the Parliament as well as the Legislature.
What does the Act say about election-related messages by political parties?
Section 39A of the Act states that the ECI must allocate equal time slots to political parties (recognised by the ECI) on cable television networks and other electronic media to display messages related to the election or to address the public.
Who is the adjudicating authority in an election dispute?
Section 80A states that the High Court will try any petition related to the election or to election disputes arising in that court’s jurisdiction.
What is the Act’s view on the sale and distribution of liquor during election season?
Section 135C of the Act prohibits the sale and distribution of liquor at a public or private hotel, eating house, tavern, shop or any other place in the polling area for 48 hours before the polling ends. Any person who violates this provision can be imprisoned for up to six months and/or fined up to Rs. 2,000.
Focus and Factoids by Pratik Dixit.
Ministry of Law and Justice
Government of India, New Delhi
17 Jul, 1951