How Will Jailed Newly-Elected MPs Amritpal Singh & Rashid Engineer Will Take Oath? Will They Be Released Or There's Another Way?

How Will Jailed Newly-Elected MPs Amritpal Singh & Rashid Engineer Will Take Oath? Will They Be Released Or There's Another Way?

Amidst the celebration of the oath ceremony of elected candidates across the country in the Lok Sabha, concerns are raised regarding the oath ceremony of two imprisoned MPs, Amritpal Singh and Engineer Rashid, who are being held at Tihar jail.

Manasi KambleUpdated: Monday, June 24, 2024, 02:08 PM IST
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(L) Engineer Rashid And (R) Amritpal Singh | X

In the recent Lok Sabha elections in India, two candidates who are currently imprisoned on terrorism-related charges emerged victorious, marking a unique situation in Indian parliamentary politics. Despite their victory, both candidates face legal restrictions that prevent their participation in the proceedings of the 18th Lok Sabha. However, they retain a constitutional right to take the oath as members of Parliament.

The Jailed MPs

Amritpal Singh, a radical Sikh preacher, secured the Khadoor Sahib seat in Punjab as an independent candidate, defeating Congress’ Kulbir Singh Zira by a significant margin of 197,120 votes. Similarly, Sheikh Abdul Rashid, also known as Engineer Rashid, won the Baramulla constituency in Jammu & Kashmir, triumphing over Omar Abdullah of the Jammu & Kashmir National Conference with a margin exceeding 200,000 votes.

Despite their electoral victories, both Amritpal Singh and Engineer Rashid are currently incarcerated. Engineer Rashid has been held in Tihar Jail since August 9, 2019, facing charges related to terror financing. Amritpal Singh, detained under the National Security Act, is held in Dibrugarh Jail, Assam.

What Does The Constitution Say?

The prospect now lies in how these newly-elected MPs will take their oaths. According to PDT Achari, a constitutional expert and former Lok Sabha Secretary General, taking the oath as a member of Parliament is a constitutional right. However, due to their imprisonment, they must obtain special permission from the authorities to be escorted to Parliament for the oath-taking ceremony. Following the ceremony, they are required to return to jail.

Role Of The Speaker

Additionally, as per Article 101(4) of the Constitution, which addresses members’ absence without prior sanction, after taking the oath, they must inform the Speaker in writing of their inability to attend House proceedings. The Speaker will then refer their requests to the House Committee on Absence of Members, which will make recommendations on whether the member should be allowed to remain absent from proceedings. The final decision will be put to a vote in the House.

However, there is a significant caveat: if either Engineer Rashid or Amritpal Singh is convicted and sentenced to at least two years in prison, they would immediately lose their seats in the Lok Sabha. This is based on a 2013 Supreme Court judgment that disqualifies MPs and MLAs in such circumstances. The judgment overturned Section 8(4) of the Representation of the People Act, which previously allowed convicted MPs and MLAs a three-month period to appeal their convictions.

Similar Incidents From The Past

This situation isn’t entirely unprecedented in Indian politics. Earlier this year, Aam Aadmi Party leader Sanjay Singh, who was imprisoned on money laundering charges in Tihar jail, was granted permission by a court to be sworn in as a Rajya Sabha MP for a second term. The court instructed the jail superintendent to ensure his secure transport to Parliament and back to the jail.

Similarly, in 2021, Akhil Gogoi, after winning from Sibsagar, Assam, was permitted by an NIA court to temporarily leave prison for his induction into the Assam Legislative Assembly.

Reflecting on historical examples, one of the most notable instances occurred in 1977 when trade unionist George Fernandes won the Muzaffarpur seat during the Emergency period while imprisoned. He was subsequently released from prison before his oath-taking ceremony.

While the electoral victories of Amritpal Singh and Engineer Rashid present a unique scenario in Indian parliamentary history, their ability to participate effectively as MPs hinges on procedural and legal considerations. Their right to take the oath is constitutionally protected, contingent upon obtaining necessary permissions and complying with legal requirements concerning their imprisonment status. The coming days will clarify how these events unfold after the speaker is elected at the house today, June 24.

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