Disqualification of Members of Parliament

Disqualification of Members of Parliament

Recently, Surat court on March 23 sentenced Congress leader Rahul Gandhi to two years in jail in a defamation case over one of his remarks in the year 2019.

Key Facts

  • The Court of Chief Judicial Magistrate convicted the Congress leader under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections – 499 and 500 and also granted him bail and suspended his sentence for 30 days to allow him to appeal.
  • As per Section 8(3) of the Representation of the People Act (RPA)-1951, a member of the legislature can be disqualified from the House in case of an offense punishable with imprisonment for two years or more.
  • Section 8(4) of the RPA provided that disqualification takes effect only “after the lapse of three months” from the date of conviction. Within that period, the convicted member could file an appeal against the conviction before the court.
  • However, this provision was declared “unconstitutional” in the 2013 Supreme Court judgment ‘Lily Thomas v Union of India’.

Disqualification of an MP convicted of an offense can be in the following two cases –

  1. If the offense for which he is convicted is listed in section 8(1) of the Representation of the People Act, It includes certain specific offenses such as promoting enmity between two groups, bribery and undue influence or impersonation in elections.
  2. If the law maker is convicted of any other offence, but is sentenced to a term of two years or more.

Section 8(3) of the RPA states that a Member of Parliament can be disqualified if he is convicted of an offense punishable with imprisonment of less than two years.

The membership of a Member of Parliament or a State Legislature can be terminated under three circumstances:

  • Through Articles 102(1) and 191(1) respectively, a Member of Parliament and a Member of the Legislative Assembly can be terminated for holding an office of profit, being of unsound mind or declared insolvent or not having valid citizenship.
  • The second method of disqualification is in the 10th Schedule of the Constitution, which provides for disqualification of members on the ground of defection.
  • The third way is under the Representation of the People Act (RPA), This law provides for disqualification for punishment in criminal cases.

Disqualification under the Representation of the People Act (RPA)

  • Section – 9 can be disqualified on grounds of corruption or for entering into a government contract while being a member of the legislature.
  • Section – 10 deals with disqualification for failure to file accounts of election expenses.
  • Section – 11 deals with disqualification for corrupt practice.
  • Section – 8 of RPA deals with disqualification for conviction of offences. The purpose of the provision is to “prevent the criminalization of politics” and prevent ‘tainted’ MPs from contesting elections.

Source – The Hindu

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