Defamation, Disqualification and RPA

Defamation, Disqualification and RPA

News: Recently, a member of Parliament was sentenced to two years in jail in a 2019 Defamation Case by Surat court over his remarks in context of particular community.

Under which sections of IPC was the case filed?
 The case was filed under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 499 and 500, dealing with defamation.
 Section 499 of the IPC elaborates on how defamation could be through words – spoken or intended to be read, through signs, and also through visible representations. These can either be published or spoken about a person with the intention of damaging the reputation of that person, or with the knowledge or reason to believe that the imputation will harm his reputation.
 Section 500 stipulates imprisonment of up to two years, with or without a fine, for someone held guilty of criminal defamation.

What is Defamation?
 Defamation is the act of communicating false statements about a person that injure the reputation of that person when observed through the eyes of an ordinary man.
 Any false and unprivileged statement published or spoken deliberately, intentionally, knowingly with the intention to damage someone's reputation is defamation.
 Article 19 of the Constitution grants freedom of speech to its citizens. However, Article 19(2) has imposed certain reasonable exemptions to this freedom such as - Contempt of Court, defamation and incitement to an offense.

What is the conflict between Free speech and Defamation? What did SC say?
 It is argued that the defamation laws are a violation of Fundamental Rights guaranteed under Article 19 of the constitution. The Supreme Court has ruled that the criminal provisions of defamation are constitutionally valid and are not in conflict with the right to free speech.
 The SC said protection of reputation is a fundamental right as well as a human right. It relied on the judgments of other countries and reaffirmed the right to reputation as a part of the right to life under Article 21.

What are Article 102(1)(e) of the Constitution and Section 8 of the RP Act?
 Article 102 of the Constitution deals with grounds for disqualification of a parliamentarian. Sub-clause (e) of Article 102(1) says an MP will lose his membership of the House “if he is so disqualified by or under any law made by Parliament”. The law in this case is the RP Act.
 Section 8 of the RP Act deals with disqualification of a lawmaker for conviction in certain offences. The provision is aimed at “preventing criminalisation of politics and keeping ‘tainted’ lawmakers from contesting elections.

What happens when MP is convicted?
 The conviction may disqualify an MP if the offense for which he is convicted is listed in Section 8(1) of the Representation of the People (RPA) Act of 1951. This section includes offences such as section 153A (offence of promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc.
 As per Section 8(3) of the Representation of the People Act 1951, conviction of a lawmaker for an offence with a two-year sentence or more leads to disqualification from the House.
 As per Section 8(4) of the RPA the disqualification takes effect only after three months have elapsed from the date of conviction. Within that period, the convicted lawmaker could have filed an appeal against the sentence before a higher court. However, this provision was struck down as “unconstitutional” in the SC’s landmark 2013 ruling in ‘Lily Thomas v Union of India’. 

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