Recently Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was disqualified from the Lok Sabha, after getting convicted in a criminal defamation case, that was filed by BJP’s Purnesh Modi in a Surat court.

Brief background of the case:

In 2019, Rahul Gandhi had said: “Why do all the thieves, be it Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi or Narendra Modi, have Modi in their names?”

For this very statement he has been convicted for two years imprisonment with a fine of Rs 15,000, under Defamation (Sections 499 and 500) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Disqualification as Member of Parliament:

Just after Rahul’s conviction, the Lok Sabha secretariat also notified that he was disqualified as member of parliament, under the Constitution’s Article 102(1)(e) read with Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act.

The Laws on Disqualification 

As per Article 102(1)(e) of the Constitution, a member of either house of the Parliament can be disqualified under any law made by the parliament (Ex: the Representation of the People Act.)

The Representation of People Act, 1951 provides the basis for disqualification for conviction in criminal cases. For offences like terrorism, rape, communal disharmony etc, the provisions for disqualification has been provided. In such cases, a mere conviction is sufficient to disqualify the convicted legislator from the Parliament.

Under Section 8(3) of the Act, a person convicted of any offence and sentenced to imprisonment for not less than two years, other than offences mentioned in 8(1) and 8(2) (in which case different conditions apply), shall be disqualified.

As per the Act, Disqualification shall begin from the date of the conviction and continue for a period of six years after his release.

Applying the same to Rahul Gandhi’s case, unless the conviction is stayed by an appellate court, his disqualification shall continue for a total of eight years –including two years of imprisonment plus six years after his release. This means that Rahul will not be able to contest elections for this duration.

Under Section 8 (3) of the same act, a second set of offences for disqualification has been provided for. It provides that disqualification required both conviction as well as a minimum sentence of at least two years. Under this very provision Rahul was disqualified.

On the other hand Section 8 (4) provides that a disqualification must not take effect” until any appeal against the decision has been decided by the appellate court. This appeal must be moved within three months.

But in Lily Thomas Vs Union of India the Supreme court struck down this section, on the basis that the date of disqualification shall not be deferred. This would mean that convicted lawmakers would be disqualified immediately.

Under the Constitution , Article 102 provides for 5 circumstances under which a member of the Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha can be disqualified: holding an office of insanity, profit, insolvency, citizenship, and disqualification by law. 

Under the 10th Schedule of the Consitution, one may also be disqualified for ‘defection’, which is a form of desertion of one’s political poverty.

 Purpose of the Act: Criminalisation Prevention

As noted by the Supreme Court in 2005, the disqualification under the Act is mainly done to prevent the “criminalisation of politics”, as the top court had said in  the K. Prabhakaran vs P. Jayarajant ruling.

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By Srishti

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