Saturday, June 05, 2004

Parliament: Amendments to the Representation of the People Act, 1951 in bad faith

Ex-Rajya Sabha MP Kuldip Nayar has gone to the Supreme Court against the amendments made to the Representation of the People Act, 1951 earlier that did away with the domicile requirement for candidates contesting the Rajya Sabha elections, as well as the open ballot system introduced replacing the earlier secret ballot system.

It appears that except for the communists every one in the Lok Sabha voted for these amendments. This shows how honesty today remains only with the communists.

The Supreme Court has issued an interim order restraining the Election Commission from issuing the notification to fill 65 vacancies that have arisen in the Rajya Sabha.

Read The Hindu

Kuldip Nayar has very ably argued that rmeoval of the domicile status changes the federal structure of the constitution. We already know how the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (despite all his credentials) has been brought in via Assam to the Rajya Sabha.

There was an unwritten rule that the Prime Minister was always an an elected representative from the Lok Sabha. This has changed for the first time with Manmohan Singh. It is still possible that Manmohan Singh may resign from the Lok Sabha to contest elections from a friendly constituency. But worse is the way Rajya Sabha being abused to bring in powerful leaders who cannot however get people's mandate, and have only recently lost in elections. The current Home Minister Shivraj Patil (lost in Latur), Power Minister PM Sayeed (lost in Lakshadweep) and Health Minister Anbumani (who didn't stand in the Lok Sabha elections at all) have to now get through via Rajya Sabha. As it is, starting from the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, there are several Rajya Sabha MPs in the coucil of ministers: Arjun Singh, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Natwar Singh, HR Bhardwaj, Prem Chand Gupta, Suresh Pachouri, Dasari Narayana Rao, Rahman Khan, MV Rajasekharan and Prithviraj Chavan. The Minister for Civil Aviation Praful Patel lost in Bhandara constituency, but is a Rajya Sabha member as well currently. Laloo Prasad Yadav, on the other hand, is at present a Rajya Sabha member, and has also won in two Lok Sabha constituencies! A few other Rajya Sabha members have stood in Lok Sabha constituencies and won and will be vacating their Rajya Sabha seats. Mulayam Singh Yadav who wants to continue as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh is resigning his Lok Sabha seat as well.

While it is perfectly acceptable to have Rajya Sabha members in the coucil of ministers - in fact desirable too - all attempts should be made to ensure that they truly represent their constituents. Manmohan Singh cannot be truly said to represent Assam. Before the amendment to the Representation of the People Act, quite a bit of spade work had to be done to get un-winnable leaders to register a home address in states where their parties have significant MLAs. Manmohan Singh apparently has a home address in Assam!

Now, with the amendment, this sham is done away with. You can live wherever you want and can get elected to the Rajya Sabha representing a specific state. Perhaps this is why the UPA has happily inducted Shivraj Patil, PM Sayeed and Anbumani into the coucil of ministers. Anbumani at least will be coming via Tamil Nadu Assembly. PM Sayeed will have to be accomodated from some other state.

BJP is just as much a culprit. Its top leaders Venkaiah Naidu, Jaswant Singh and Arun Shourie will be seeking Rajya Sabha seats from some safe states, about which they may know very little. So are several other aspirants to MP posts. This kind of abuse of course happens only with the two major National Parties. We hope the Supreme Court comes down heavily on this amendment and restores the original character.

The open ballot system was something I welcomed when it was announced. I can now see the problems in this system. However, I am not overly worried if this aspect of the amendment is either retained or struck away.

Newspapers report that this stay order will result in constitutional crisis. I do not think so. The non-members of the Parliament have six months to elect themselves in. If they are seen as that important, their respective parties can find some safe Lok Sabha seats and have them vacated for these leaders stand in the elections. If not, six months down the line, these folks can resign, and find a proper way of entering either the Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha and then resume their ministership. Surely this is not a constitutional crisis? It would have been the case had it been the Prime Minister who was caught in such a scenario.


  1. did you see the supreme court ruling?

  2. Kuldip Nayar argues that removing the domicile requirement goes against federalism which is the basic feature of the constitution and thus cannot be violated. The court however says that India is quasi federal and more powers have been given to the centre and removing the domicile requirement of the state does not violate federalism. the court also says that the amendment would bring in a wide choice of competant people that could be elected. the court also rejects the contention of kuldip nayar and ors. who say that Council of States is supposed to represent the states and for that purpose the state domicile requirement is necessary.
    I think that the Supreme Court just legitimizes the abuse of Rajya Sabha by people who show fake domicile certificates and get elected to Rajya Sabha jsut because they lost the Lok Sabha elections. These people have no intention to represent the state's interests from where they got elected which is the purpose of the 'Council of States'. I refuse to believe that the framers of our Constitution would be so stupid that they would name the Rajya Sabha 'Council of states' if they didn't want the interests of the states to be represented in that House. in order to support this refer to Article 80 and 84 of the Constitution(this argument has been made by the petitioners in the case as well but has been rejected by the SC) uses the term 'representative of the state' for people elected in Rajya Sabha whereas they use the term 'member' for people of 'Lok Sabha'.