The Act was endorsed by the provisional parliament under Article 327 of Indian Constitution, before the first general election.
The Act provides guidelines to the Election Commission for free and fair conduct of election.
- It was established that after India’s independence, an elected constituent assembly was set up to develop the constitution.
- Most of the articles of the constitution came into force on 26 January 1950, the Republic Day.
- Part XXI of the constitution contained the translational provisions.
- Articles 379 and 394 of Part XXI which contained provisions for provisional parliament and other articles which contained provisions like citizenship came into force on 26 November 1949, the date on which the constitution was drafted.
- The provisional parliament enacted the Act vide Act No.43 of 1951 for the first general election conducted on 25 October 1951.
- The Representation of People Act, 1951 was enacted by the provincial government of India to scrutinize the election process before the first general elections.
- The acts were modified many times but one of the noteworthy alterations is the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act, 1966 (47 of 1966), which eliminated the election tribunals and transferred the election petitions to the High Court whose orders can be appealed to Supreme Court.
The act provides for:
- the conduct of elections of the Houses of Parliament and to the House or Houses of the Legislature of each State,
- qualification and disqualification of members of both houses of Parliament (Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha) and the state legislatures (State Legislative Assembly and State Legislative Council)
- the corrupt practices and other offences at or in connection with such elections and
- Dispute redressal regarding the decision of doubts and disputes arising out of or in connection with such elections.
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.
Salient Features of the Act
- Only a qualified voter can contest elections of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
- On the seats reserved for SCs and STs, only candidate belonging to that category can contest the election.
- The elector can contest election in any constituency irrespective of the state/Union Territory where the electorate is present for which he/she is eligible to vote.
- If a person is found guilty for promoting enmity, hatred between classes, bribery, influencing elections, rape or other heinous crimes against women, or spread religious disharmony, practice untouchability, import-export prohibited goods, sell or consume illegal drugs and other chemicals or terrorism in any form or may have been imprisoned for at least 2 years shall be disqualified for six years after his/her release from the jail to contest elections.
- The person shall also be disqualified if he/she is found engaged in corrupt practices or excluded for related government contracts.
- Declaration of electoral expenses is a must, failing which will lead to disqualification of the candidate.
- Every political party must be registered with the Election Commission of India whose decision regarding this will be final.
- In case of any changes in the name or address of the political party, the party must intimate the Election Commission as soon as it does so.
- A political party may take donations from any of the person or company within India except the government-owned companies. Foreign contributions are not allowed.
- Every political party must report the donation of more than ₹20,000 received from any person or company.
- National Party:If a party gets minimum 6 per cent of valid votes for assembly elections in more than four states or wins at least 2 per cent seats in Lok Sabha from at least three states is recognized as a National Party.
- State Party:If a political party gets a minimum 6 per cent of the votes in the state assembly elections or wins at least 3 per cent of total seats in the state assembly will be a state political party.
- The candidate must declare his/her assets and liabilities within 90 days from his/her oath-taking day.
- Petitions related to elections shall be filled in High Court and can be appealed in Supreme Court. The High Court must conclude the petition within six months of its filling. The decision in such case should be intimated to the Election Commission. It can be appealed in the Supreme Court within 30 days.
- The Election Commission has powers similar to the Civil Court to summon and enforce any person or any evidence. It can regulate its procedure.
- For elections-related works, people from local authorities, universities, government companies, and other institutions under state or center governments shall be provided to the Election Commission.
- The candidate should deposit ₹25000 as security for Lok Sabha elections, and all other polls ₹12500 should be deposited. SC/St candidates get 50 percent concession in security deposition.
Offenses related to Elections defined under the act
- Promoting enmity and hatred
- Booth capturing and removal of ballot papers
- Breach of official duty and supporting any candidate
- Selling liquor within two days before polling to its conclusion
- Calling for public meetings within 48 hours before voting and creating disturbances
Grounds for Disqualification
- Disqualification on conviction for certain election offences and corrupt practices in the election.
- A person convicted of any offence and sentenced to imprisonment for not less than two years
- Disqualification on ground of corrupt practices
- Disqualification for dismissal for corruption or disloyalty
- Disqualification for office under Government Company
- Disqualification for failure to lodge account of election expenses
- Disqualification for promoting enmity between different groups or for the offence of bribery
- A person must not have been punished for preaching and practicing social crimes such as Untouchability, Dowry, Sati etc.