Section 151A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 mandates the Election Commission to fill casual vacancies in the Houses of Parliament and state legislatures through byelections within six months from the date of occurrence of the vacancy, provided that the remainder of the term of a member in relation to a vacancy is one year or more.
The Wayanad seat fell vacant on March 23, and as per Section 151A, the EC is mandated to hold a bypoll to elect a new MP from the constituency by September 22, 2023. Since the vacancy arose more than a year before the term of the 17th Lok Sabha, the bypoll cannot be dispensed with, even though the elected MP will only have a short term.
Incidentally, the commission may have to set aside plans to announce the Wayanad bypoll and even if it were to announce it, the elections may have to be set aside in the event of the court staying the conviction before the poll process is completed.
This was seen in the recent instance of disqualification of Lakshadweep member of Parliament Mohammed Faizal. Faizal was convicted in an attempt-to-murder case on January 11, 2023, attracting immediate and automatic disqualification from membership of the Lok Sabha by virtue of Section 8(3) of the R P Act.
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Two days after the conviction, the Lok Sabha secretariat notified disqualification of Faizal with effect from January 11 itself. The EC immediately followed with announcement of the bypoll, tying it up with the assembly elections in three northeastern states. However, his conviction was stayed by the Kerala high court, leading the EC to suspend the poll notification.
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Interestingly, while the Kerala high court relief effectively restored his membership of the Lok Sabha, Faizal still cannot participate in the proceedings of the House.