Monthly Archives: December 2013

The Representation of the People Act, 1951, needs revival

In Indian democratic history, for the first time, the Election Commission and its instrumentalities have made extra efforts to raise voting percentage and motivated people to exercise their franchisees. In the year of 2003, the Ministry of Law and Justice (Legislative Department) issued Notification No. S.O. 903(E) dated 5th August 2003 and made some amendments in Conduct of Election Rules, 1961. The amended Rules are called “Conduct of Election (Amendment) Rules, 2003”.

As per the Amended Rules, 2003, new part III-B was inserted in the original Rules of 1961. This part provides special facility to certain class of voters to use their right to vote through proxy. This facility is available only for “classified service voters” which is defined in clause (a) of Section 60 of the Representation of People Act, 1951 (herein after “the Act of 1951”). Though the aforementioned clause does not speak about certain class of persons but refers section 20(3) of the Act of 1951. The Act of 1951 says about (1) persons being members of armed forces and (2) armed police or (3) person employed under government of India in a post outside India. Section 60(a)(ii) specifies the wife of any person categorised as “classified service voters.”

Section 60 of the Act of 1951 recognises the right of certain voters to use their representatives through postal ballot. The Conduct of Election (Amendment) Rules, 2003 provides for such classified voters to have a better option to vote through proxy. In other words, these voters can appoint any person to give vote. Rule 27N (3) prescribes Form 13 F in this regard.

Even after the lapse of 63 years of the enactment of the Act of 1951, a special class of voters, which includes the persons employed in private sectors across the country and abroad are deprived from the voting right. Such unfortunate situation is a result of statutory discrimination and lack of collective representations. Most of the high tech personals employed in states different from their parliamentary constituencies, are not in a position to vote personally. Though their contribution in the development of country is very significant, but the Act of 1951 does not acknowledge their significance and realise their issues. Section 60(b) gives voting right to persons subjected to preventive detention under any law, through postal ballot, but does not provide any special provisions for persons employed in private sectors outside the constituency.

For the sake of argument, it can be said that such type of persons may apply for their names to be entered in the electoral roll, in which they resides. But this is not a reasonable option, as most of them would not want to change their permanent address and domicile. The change of parliamentary constituency will result undue hardships to them. For instance, if one person changes his domicile and applied for cancellation of voter id from where he originally belongs, he has to apply for change of his address in his passport and other official records. In private sector, the change of company or employer is very common. In such situation, in general, a person would not want to change his permanent status regarding parliamentary constituency.

It is high time and we must say right time to make amendments in the Act of 1951 and some substantial provisions must be incorporated therein to provide maximum opportunity to those employed in private sectors outside their constituencies also.

Looking at the socio-economic conditions of people in the country, three different modes of voting may be provided to them. Firstly, online voting method; if an Income Tax or Service Tax return can be filed online, an online voting mechanism could certainly be introduced. Secondly, voting through postal ballet, this method will be useful for persons who are not able to use internet. Thirdly, voting through proxy, this method will help unskilled, semi-skilled workers who have their relatives in native places and can appoint proxy to vote.

The proposed amendments will not only help those, who are working in private organised and unorganised sectors, but also serve the main purpose of the Constitution of India, which aims to provide all citizens the right to equality and fair treatment. Until and unless, such amendments take place, the target of the government regarding hundred percent voting cannot be achieved.

Reporting to Head-Quarter during Suspension Period

The word ‘Suspension’ is used differently in different statutes. In criminal jurisprudence, the word ‘suspension’ is generally used in the phrase ‘suspension of sentence’. Every person who is convicted for an offence and sentenced to serve imprisonment requests an appellate body for suspension of his sentence. On the contrary, in service jurisprudence, the word ‘suspension’ is used to debar an employee, for a time, from any privilege, from the execution of an office or form enjoyment of an income, i.e., for his ‘suspension from services’. It is worth noting that while one rejoices when the ‘suspension of sentence’ is allowed, ‘suspension from services’ is practically considered a curse, stigmatic and often painful.

The suspension from service is an inheritance of Imperialism. By inclusion in most of the service rules and regulations, the concept of suspension has been merged under the law. In every case in which an employer considers the serious lapses or irregularities on the part of an employee, generally the instrument of suspension is being used. Though the main purpose of suspension is to safeguard against any kind of tempering of evidence, if suspension is based on documentary evidence there is no question of tempering of evidence.

The suspension of an employee along with the change of his head-quarter is a misconception of rules. An enquiry proposed against an employee can lead to his head-quarter being changed. In such a situation, the suspension of that employee is unwarranted. This is because of the reason that the main purpose of suspension, i.e., to avoid tempering of evidence can be achieved by change of head-quarter. Unfortunately, in the most of the cases, the order of suspension is appended with the condition “during the period of suspension, the head-quarter of employee shall be changed and the incumbent employee shall not leave the head-quarter without the permission of the head of the office”.

The condition mentioned in the previous paragraph of this article regarding “head-quarter leave during suspension” is being imposed without any law or authority. It is a clear-cut violation of the fundamental rights and human rights of an employee. The self-made administrative provision is not only arbitrary and irrational, but against human dignity. The courts of law never impose such inhuman condition that during the period of suspension of sentence or during the enjoyment of bails and bonds, the accused shall not leave head-quarter without the permission of the court. While exercising the administrative powers by the administrative authorities, it is highly unreasonable and arbitrary that during the period of suspension, an employee is made to obtain permission of the head of the office prior to leaving the head-quarter.

The condition that an employee should not leave the head-quarter without the permission of the head of the office during the period of suspension can be tested on following parameters:

  1. The condition regarding not to leave the head-quarter during suspension is a gross violence of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which declares that:
    • Article 1. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
    • Article 2.Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
    • Article 3.Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
    • Article 4.No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
    • Article 5.No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
    • Article 12.No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
  2. The condition is in derogation of constitutional rights engrafted under Article 19 of the Constitution of India, in which all citizens shall have the right to move freely throughout the territory of India.
  3. In the case of West Bengal Khadi Board vs. D.P. Bhattacharya, (1980) 3 SLR 136, the Hon’ble Kolkata High Court observed that there is no law that restrains the suspended employee from leaving the head-quarter without the permission of a competent authority or that requires the suspended employee to appear everyday before a designated authority during his period of suspension.
  4. Recently, In the case of State of Bihar and Others vs. Arvind Kumar, reported in AIR 2013 SC 3329, the Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that ‘in the case in hand, there is no rule that provides that the suspended employee should remain at the headquarter to be entitled to get subsistence allowance’.
  5. Lastly, The Madhya Pradesh Civil Services (Leave) Rules, 1977, for the employees of the Government of Madhya Pradesh, does not provide any kind of headquarter leave. Likewise, no Industrial statute directs that a suspended employee or worker should not leave his headquarter without the permission of his employer. In such a situation, to compel a suspended employee to attend office and remain in headquarter is nothing but abuse of administrative powers.