Incarcerated Candidates Win Lok Sabha Seats: What Constitutional Rights and the Oath of Office Rules says

Sheikh Abdul Rashid-Amrit pal singh

New Delhi: The Election Commission announced the results of the recent Lok Sabha elections on Tuesday, revealing several surprising outcomes. Among the most notable is the victory of two candidates who are currently incarcerated on terrorism charges, marking an unprecedented scenario for the forthcoming 18th Lok Sabha.

Engineer Rashid and Amritpal Singh Secure Victory from Jail

Radical Sikh preacher Amritpal Singh won the Khadoor Sahib seat in Punjab, while Sheikh Abdul Rashid, commonly known as Engineer Rashid, who is accused of financing terrorism, secured the Baramulla seat in Jammu and Kashmir. Engineer Rashid has been detained in Tihar Jail since August 9, 2019, on charges related to terrorism financing. Amritpal Singh was apprehended under the National Security Act in April 2023 and is currently held in Dibrugarh Jail in Assam.

Constitutional Rights and the Oath of Office

The election of these jailed candidates raises significant questions regarding their ability to take the oath of office and participate in parliamentary proceedings. Constitutional experts assert that taking the oath as a member of Parliament is a constitutional right. Despite their incarceration, both Engineer Rashid and Amritpal Singh have the right to be sworn in as MPs.

To take the oath, they must obtain permission from the relevant authorities to be transported to Parliament for the swearing-in ceremony. After taking their oaths, they will return to jail. Article 101(4) of the Constitution addresses the issue of MPs being absent from Parliament without the Speaker’s permission. Following their oath, Rashid and Singh must notify the Lok Sabha Speaker of their inability to attend sessions, prompting the Speaker to forward their requests to the Committee on Absence of Members from the House.

Sheikh Abdul Rashid-Amrit pal singh

Potential Consequences of Conviction

The committee will evaluate whether the MPs should be allowed to remain absent from parliamentary proceedings. The Speaker will then present the committee’s recommendation to the House for a vote. If either Engineer Rashid or Amritpal Singh are convicted and sentenced to a minimum of two years imprisonment, they will immediately lose their Lok Sabha seats. This is in accordance with a 2013 Supreme Court ruling that disqualifies MPs and MLAs convicted of crimes and sentenced to at least two years in prison. This ruling nullified Section 8(4) of the Representation of the People Act, which previously allowed convicted officials a three-month period to appeal their convictions.