Representations of Peoples Acts (RoPA), 1950 and 1951: Key Features

Parliament of India had enacted two acts viz. Representations of Peoples Acts (RoPA), 1950 and RoPA, 1951 to provide a detailed framework around free and fair elections in the country. The 1950 law makes provisions for allocation of seats in Lok Sabha and Legislative Assemblies, Delimitation of Constituencies, Qualifications of voters, Manner of filling the seats of Rajya Sabha by Union Territory representatives etc. The 1951 Law makes provisions for conduct of elections to Parliament and state legislatures, Qualifications and disqualifications, various offences, various doubts and disputes etc.

Important Notes from Representation of the People Acts, 1950

  • All seats in Lok Sabha to be filled by direct election. One seat for every constituency and one person for one seat.
  • In all states and UTs except Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, the extent of a constituency is to be determined by the Delimitation Commission made under Delimitation Act 1972. For Sikkim, the extent of assembly to be defined by Delimitation of Parliamentary and Assembly Constituencies Order, 1976, and Representation of the People (Amendment) Act, 1980. Election commission conferred the power to keep Delimitation Order up-to-date.
  • Election Commission has been also conferred the power to determine the constituencies to be reserved for Scheduled Tribes in the states of Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura.
  • President of India conferred the power to amend orders delimiting constituencies, only after consulting the Election Commission.
  • Each state to have a Chief electoral officer nominated or designated by Election Commission in consultation with the state government. The Election Commission will also appoint district level election commissioners in consultation with the state government.
  • Each constituency has to have an electoral roll. No person to be registered in electoral rolls of more than one constituency. No Person to be registered more than once in any constituency. A person shall be disqualified for registration in an electoral roll if he is either not a citizen of India or is of unsound mind or is disqualified from voting.
  • The electoral roll for each constituency has to be prepared in the prescribed manner. Any person whose name is not included in the electoral roll of a constituency may apply to the electoral registration officer for the inclusion of his name in that roll.
  • Power to make rules under this act conferred to Central Government, which can exercise this power in consultation with Election Commission. The Civil Courts have also been barred to question the legality of any action of electoral registration officer regarding revision of such electoral roll.

Salient Notes from Representation of People’s Act 1951

Voter Qualification
  • Only an elector can be a representative. If a person is not qualified to vote, he cannot represent the people in parliament {both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha}.
  • In case of Lok Sabha, if the seat is reserved for SC, a non-SC voter cannot be elected to that seat; if the seat is reserved for ST, a non-ST voter cannot be elected to that seat. He must be from these categories however; he may be a voter registered from any other constituency within India. However, in case of autonomous districts of Assam, Sikkim, ST seat for Lakshadweep, the elector should be enrolled as a voter in the same constituency.
  • The same criteria are followed in legislative assembly of state, barring that the elector should be an eligible voter in the same state.
Disqualification matters
  • If a person is convicted under a punishable offence related to promoting enmity, bribery, undue influence or personation at an election, rape, cruelty towards a woman, creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes, promoting religious acrimony, practice of untouchability, import and export of prohibited goods, any other unlawful activities, FEMA, laws related to Narcotics, terrorism acts, offences related to religious places and religious practices, offences related to insulting the National Insignia, Constitution of India, offence related to practice of Sati and so on… will be disqualified if sent to jail for at least 2 years. This disqualification is for six year after the person is released from jail.
  • The other grounds for disqualification are as follows:
    • If found guilty of corrupt practices
    • Dismissed for corruption
    • Disqualified for a contract entered into with government related matters
    • A person remains disqualified as long as he managing agent, manager or secretary of any government company or corporation
    • If fails to lodge expense accounts of elections

Provisions related to political parties

  • Every association or body which calls itself a political party shall have to apply to Election Commission of India for registration. The election commission will register that party after considering all the particulars, relevant factors and after hearing the representatives of the party.
  • The Election Commission’s decision regarding registration will be final.
  • If a political party changes its name or address, it shall communicate the election commission as soon as it does so.
  • A registered political party may accept any voluntary contribution by any person or company within India other than a government company. Political parties are not allowed to seek and receive contribution from a foreign source.
  • Each political party has to prepare the report related to contribution more than ` 20,000 from persons and companies in year and submit it to the Election Commission.

National Party versus State Parties

Structurally, a party is recognized as state political party if it has secured at least 6% of the total votes given in the state in the general or assembly elections and also the party has been able to grab at least 3% of total seats or a total of 3 seats in the state legislative assemblies.

It becomes a national party if it manages to get minimum of 6% of the valid votes cast for assembly or general elections from within a total electorate of 4 or more states.  In addition to this, the party seeking national status must also win at least 2% (11 out of 543 seats) seats in Lok Sabha from at least three different states OR a total of 4 seats in Lok Sabha from any number of state(s).
Functionally, the national party usually seeks a majority in Lok Sabha to become able to influence national politics and therefore it raises issues of national and international interest. Whereas the Regional party advocates the interest of the state it represents and greater autonomy from central government. At the present moment we have a total of 6 national parties namely: INC, BJP, BSP, CPI, CPI-M and NCP. Whereas the number of regional parties is well above 700.

Right to Vote

Any person who is duly enrolled on a electoral roll and is not disqualified to vote, shall have right to vote. One person can vote at one constituency only and only for one time in a particular election. If a person votes in more than one constituency, all his votes will be deemed void in all constituencies. If a person is jailed / lawful detention at the time he shall not be eligible for voting. However, if a person is in preventive custody, he can vote.

Various Election Offenses

Following are considered to be the election offenses in India. Each of them follows some kind of punishment as per the law of the land.

  • Promoting enmity
  • Public meetings within prior 48 hours of polling.
  • Creating disturbance
  • Restriction on the printing of pamphlets, posters etc.
  • Officers acting for a candidate
  • Canvassing in or near polling stations.
  • Illegal hiring or procuring of conveyance
  • Breach of official duty
  • Removal of ballot papers
  • Booth capturing.
  • No liquor sale within 48 hours prior to the polling to the conclusion of polling.

Other salient provisions

  • Every elected candidate shall submit the declaration of his assets and liabilities within 90 days from taking oath.
  • Every contesting candidate is required to maintain account of election expenses.
  • Election petitions are to be heard in high Court and appeal to Supreme Court. High court has to conclude such petition within six months from the date of petition. High Court will intimate its decision to Election Commission and Speaker / Chairman. Appeal to Supreme Court can be made within 30 days.
  • The Corrupt practices which can lead to cancelling of an election include bribery, undue influence, promotion of enmity, hiring of vehicles to and from polling stations.
  • In case of any enquiry, the election commission is conferred the powers of a Civil Court for summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person or any evidence. The election has power to regulate its own procedure.
  • For election related works, the following are to be made available to election commission viz. every local authority, university, Government Company, any other institution undertaking under the control of state or central government.
  • A candidate contesting election to Lok Sabha has to make a deposit of Rs.25,000/- as security, whereas, for all other elections, the amount of security deposit is Rs.12,500/-. Candidates belonging to scheduled caste and scheduled tribe get a concession of 50% in respect of the amounts of security deposit mentioned above. (Section 34).
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