Context: The Supreme Court observed that providing false information about an electoral candidate’s qualifications cannot be considered a “corrupt practice” under Sections 123 (2) and Section 123 (4) of the Representation of People’s Act (RPA), 1951.
More on the News
- Supreme Court was hearing a plea in ‘Anugrah Narayan Singh v. Harsh Vardhan Bajpayee’.
- Plea challenged a 2017 Allahabad High Court ruling, which held that a piece of false information regarding the educational qualification of an election candidate cannot be termed a ‘corrupt practice’ within the meaning of Section 123 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (the RP Act).
- Supreme Court refused to interfere with the High Court’s order of dismissal and observed that no one in India votes for a candidate based on their educational qualifications
About Representation of People’s Act (RPA), 1951
- It provides for the conduct of elections of the Houses of Parliament and to the House or Houses of the Legislature of each State;
- Qualifications and disqualifications for membership of those Houses;
- Decision of Doubts and Disputes arising out of or in connection with such elections;
- Corrupt practices and other offences at or in connection with such elections.
What Constitutes Corrupt Practices under RPA, 1951?
- Section 123 of the Act: It defines ‘corrupt practices’ to include bribery, undue influence, false information, and promotion or attempted promotion of “feelings of enmity or hatred between different classes of the citizens of India on grounds of religion, race, caste, community, or language” by a candidate for increasing his/her prospects in the election.
- Section 123 (2): It deals with ‘undue influence’ which is defined as “any direct or indirect interference or attempt to interfere on the part of the candidate or his agent, or of any other person, with the consent of the candidate or his election agent, with the free exercise of any electoral right.”
- This could also include threats of injury, social ostracism and expulsion from any caste or community.
- Section 123 (4): It extends the ambit of “corrupt practices” to the intentional publication of false statements which can prejudice the outcome of the candidate’s election.
- Under the provisions of the Act, an elected representative can be disqualified if convicted of certain offences; on grounds of corrupt practices; for failing to declare election expenses; and for interests in government contracts or works.
Supreme Court Previous Judgment on Corrupt Practices
- Abhiram Singh v C.D. Commachen 2017: Election will be annulled if votes are sought in the name of a candidate’s religion, race, caste, community, or language, as per Section 123 (3) which prohibits the same.
- SR Bommai v. Union of India 1994: Secularism is a part of the ‘basic structure’ and encroachment of religion into secular activities is strictly prohibited, citing subsection (3) of Section 123 of the RPA Act, 1951.
- S. Subramaniam Balaji vs State of Tamil Nadu 2013: It held that promises of freebies cannot be termed a corrupt practice.
- Peoples Union for Civil Liberties V UOI: It cannot be said that any inconsistency or error in the affidavit of a candidate regarding his educational qualification would amount to corrupt practice.
Representation of People’s Act (RPA), 1950
- It provides for allocation of seats and delimitation of constituencies for elections, qualifications of voters, and preparation of electoral rolls.