The Allahabad High Court today sought replies from the Central government and the Election Commission of India in a plea challenging the constitutional validity of three provisions of the Representation of the People Act (RP Act), 1950 [Lok Prahari v. Union of India & Ors].
The matter was heard by a Division Bench of Justices Devendra Kumar Upadhyaya and Ajai Kumar Srivastava-I.
The plea filed by NGO Lok Prahari contended that the provisions of the Act enables even a permanently non-resident Indian (NRI) citizen to become a Prime Minister or Chief Minister.
"When read with the definition of ‘elector’ in Section 2(1)(e) and Sections 3 to 6 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, section 20-A of Representation of the People Act,1950 (RP Act, 1950) enables even a permanently non-resident Indian citizen to become MP/MLA and even PM/CM," the plea stated.
It was further submitted that sub-Section 19 (b), clause (c) of Section 16(1) and Section 20-A of the RP Act irrationally discriminate and bar registration as a voter on the grounds of non-residence, crime and illegal practices respectively.
Section 19 provides that every person who - (a) is not less than eighteen years of age on the qualifying date, and (b) is ordinarily resident in a constituency, shall be entitled to be registered in the electoral roll for that constituency.
Section 16 (1) states that a person shall be disqualified for registration in an electoral roll if he (a) is not a citizen of India (b) is of unsound mind and stands so declared by a competent court; or (c) is for the time being disqualified from voting under the provisions of any law relating to corrupt practices and other offences in connection with election.
Section 20-A contains special provisions for citizens of India residing outside the country. It provides that every citizen of India - (a) whose name in not included in the electoral roll; (b) who has not acquired the citizenship of any other country; and (c) who is absenting from his place of ordinary residence in India owing to his employment, education or otherwise - shall be entitled to have his name registered in the electoral roll in the constituency in which his place of residence in India as mentioned in his passport is located.
Placing reliance upon Supreme Court's decision in Kuldip Nayar v. Union of India, the petitioner contended that the directions of the Constitution Bench in the said case have not been implemented by the government authorities in the last 15 years.
In Kuldip Nayar, the Supreme Court had held that ‘it is no part of federal principle that the representatives of state must belong to that state’.
The Court clarified that the phrase ‘representative of each state’ only refers to the members and do not import any further concept or requirement of residence in the said state.
The Court asked the respondent parties (Election Commission of India and Union government) to file their affidavits. It will hear the matter on October 18.