Members of Parliament: Qualifications and Disqualification

In India, the members of parliament are members of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. Both the houses have elected as well as nominated members. The elected members of Lok Sabha are elected directly on the basis of adult suffrage; the elected members of Rajya Sabha are indirectly elected by members of legislative assemblies of states. While 2 members of Anglo-Indian community are nominated by President in Lok Sabha, 12 members who have excelled in various fields such as art, literature, science, social service etc. are nominated by president in Rajya Sabha. The term period of an elected member of the Rajya Sabha is 6 years, while the same for an elected member of Lok Sabha is 5 years subject to other conditions.

Qualifications to Become an MP

As per article 84 of the constitution, a person is qualified to be a member of parliament provided he:

  • is a citizen of India
  • has completed 30 years of age in case of Rajya Sabha and 25 years in case of Lok Sabha.
  • possesses such other qualifications as may be prescribed in that behalf by or under any law made by Parliament.

The third condition above led the parliament to include other qualifications for MPs in the Representation of People Act (1951). These qualifications are as follows:

  • Only an elector can be elected. Thus, the candidate must be registered as a voter in a parliamentary constituency and must be eligible to vote. If due to any reason the person loses eligibility to vote, he would lose eligibility to contest also. For example if a person is jailed or in lawful detention at the time of elections, he shall not be eligible for voting. However, if a person is in preventive custody, he can vote. These define if a person is able to contest for election of MP or not.
  • It is not necessary that a person should be registered as a voter in the same constituency. This is applicable for both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
  • A person from reserved category only can contest election if the Lok Sabha seat is reserved for these categories. However, an SC/ST person can contest election on an unreserved seat also.

Disqualification grounds

The constitution of India has provided (in article 102) that a member of parliament will be disqualified for membership if:

  • He holds any office of profit under the Union or state government (except that of a minister or any other office exempted by Parliament)
  • He is of unsound mind and stands so declared by a court.
  • He is an undischarged insolvent.
  • He has ceased to be a citizen of India.
  • He is disqualified under any other law by parliament

The last condition above led the parliament to include some other conditions for disqualification in Representation of People Act (1951).  These are as follows:

  • He must not have been found guilty of certain election offences and corrupt practices
  • He must not have been convicted for any offence that results in imprisonment for two or more years. However, detention under preventive detention law is not disqualification.
  • He must not have failed to lodge an account of election expenses within stipulated time.
  • He must not have any interest in government contracts, works and services.
  • He must not be a director or managing personnel in a company / organization in which government has at least 25% share.
  • He must not have been dismissed from government service due to corruption or disloyalty to state.
  • He must not have been convicted for promoting enmity between groups.
  • He must not have been punished for supporting social crimes such as untouchability, sati, dowry etc.
Disqualification on Ground of Defection

Apart from article 102, the Tenth Schedule to Constitution provides for disqualification of the members on ground of defection. Defection refers to desertion of one’s party in favor of an opposing one. As per the provisions of the Tenth Schedule, a member may be disqualified if he:

  • Voluntarily gives up the membership of his political party which gave him ticket to contest and win
  • Votes or abstains from voting in the House contrary to any direction issued by the political party to which he belongs, unless such voting or abstention has been condoned by the political party within fifteen days.
  • A member elected as an independent candidate shall be disqualified if he joins any political party after his election.
  • However, a nominated member is allowed to join a political party provided he joins such political party of his choices within a period of six months. After that period, joining a political party would lead to defection and disqualification.
Who decides the question of disqualification?
  • The question whether a member is subject to disqualification in all other matters except under 10th schedule (disqualification) is decided by President. However, President should obtain the opinion of the election commission before taking such decision.
  • The question of disqualification under Anti-defection / Tenth Schedule is decided by the Chairman in the case of Rajya Sabha {i.e. Vice-President} and Speaker in the case of Lok Sabha.
  • The decision of Chairman / Speaker in this condition is subject to judicial review.
Other conditions of vacating the seats

Apart from the disqualification grounds mentioned in Constitution, RoPA 1951 and Tenth schedule, a member of parliament would need to vacate the seat in follow circumstances:

  • A member of parliament can resign from his seat. The resignation letter is addressed to Chairman of Rajya Sabha (Vice-President) and Speaker of Lok Sabha.
  • The Chairman or Speaker can declare the seat vacated if a member has remained absent from all its meetings for a period of 60 days without permission. While calculating the 60 days, the period for which house is prorogued or adjourned is not counted.
  • If a member has been elected as President or Vice-President, or has been appointed as Governor of a state, his seat will be vacated.
  • A person cannot be come member of both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha at one time. If a person is elected from both the houses, he need to intimate within 10 days to the house of which he desires to serve. However, if he fails to make such intimation, his Rajya Sabha membership will end.
  • If a sitting Lok Sabha member becomes Rajya Sabha member or vice versa, the seat of former house will vacate.
  • If a person has contested elections on two seats and is elected on both, he needs to choose one. If he fails to do so, both the seats will get vacated.
  • A person cannot be MLA and MP at the same time. If it happens that a person is both an MLA and MP, his MP seat will vacate.
Power, Privileges, Immunities of parliament and MPs

As per article 105 and 106, an MP has freedom of speech in parliament. Anything said by a member and any vote casted by a members cannot be questioned in court.  Other aspects, power privileges etc. are defined by the parliament. Salaries and allowances are defined by the parliament by Law.

Last Updated: February 24, 2016

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