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‘Corrupt act’ under RPA 1951

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    24th Feb, 2023


The Supreme Court held its decision on “corrupt practice” under the Representation of People’s Act, (RPA) 1951 by any candidate during or after the election process.


About the case:

  • In Anugrah Narayan Singh v. Harsh VardhanBajpayee, the Apex Court dismissed the ruling which declared the election of a MLA as “null and void”.
  • The court has mentioned that under corrupt act of RPA 1951, publishing a false statement of fact about his character and conduct to influence the outcome of his election, knowingly is a crime.
  • The candidate should disclose his/her educational qualification for free and fair conduct of elections.
  • However, now the Apex Court reversed its own decision in view that, no one in India votes for a candidate based on their educational qualifications and, thus providing false information about an electoral candidate’s qualifications cannot be considered a “corrupt practice”.

What are ‘corrupt practices’ under the RPA, 1951?

  • Section 123 of the Representation of People Act 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 the furtherance of his prospects in the election.
  • Section 123 (2) deals with ‘undue influence’ which it defines 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.
  • Section 123 (4) 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.

Related judgements:

  • In 1994, the Supreme Court’s ruling in ‘SR Bommai v. Union of India’, which otherwise held secularism to be a part of the ‘basic structure’, mentioned that, “whatever the attitude of the State towards the religions, religious sects, and denominations, religion cannot be mixed with any secular activity of the State.”
  • The encroachment of religion into secular activities is strictly prohibited, the court stated while adding that the same is clear from sub-section (3) of Section 123 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
  • The top court in its 2013 judgment in ‘ SubramaniamBalajivs State of Tamil Nadu’ held that promises of freebies cannot be termed a corrupt practice.

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