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Prisoners can’t contest elections
Patna High Court tells EC

Patna, April 30
In a significant order, the Patna High Court today directed the Election Commission to consider countermanding elections in constituencies contested by prisoners, whose voting right had been suspended under the election laws.

A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Ravi S Dhawan and Justice Shashank Kumar Singh passed the order on two PILs seeking disqualification of those who had entered the poll fray from jail and whose voting rights were suspended by the election laws.

The bench also ordered the Commission to consider countermanding elections in the constituencies where proclaimed absconders had cast their vote. The EC should act and act with speed and take a decision on these issues before declaration of results of the polls, the Bench said.

A host of alleged history-sheeters, including RJD strongman Mohammed Shahabuddin, LJP general secretary Rajesh Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav, Independent MLA Rajan Tiwary and supremo of the banned Ranvir Sena, a private militia of landlords allegedly responsible for several massacres, Brahmeshwar Singh, are contesting the election from behind the bars.

The court was hearing two PILs clubbed together. The first one was filed by an NGO “Peoples Watch” seeking disqualification of prisoners, whose voting rights are suspended by Article 62 (5) of the Representation of People Act, 1951, who had entered the fray. The second PIL was filed by Mr Om Prakash Yadav, JD(U) nominee from Siwan, who had sought disqualification of his RJD rival Mohammed Shahabuddin for running his campaign from a hospital despite being in judicial custody.

The court taking serious note of Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) MLA Rama Singh, wanted by the police of Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal in several criminal cases, casting his vote at a booth in Hajipur parliamentary constituency from where LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan is trying his luck, in the presence of the police, instructed the Director General of Police to immediately arrest him.

The judges castigated the Bihar government for allowing an absconder (Rama Singh) to cast his vote and its failure to check the activities of prisoners, freely running election campaign from hospitals in judicial custody.

“This is enough to prove the connivance of the state government with such anti-social elements. This is embarrassing,” the Judges observed.

Stating that the court wanted to remove “the elements polluting politics”, the Judges said “ending criminalisation of politics has been a far cry. Drastic measures are needed to end this politician-criminal nexus.”

The petitioners had questioned the right of those lodged in jails to contest elections when their basic right to vote remained suspended during the period of their incarceration.

The counsel for Mr Om Prakash Yadav, JD(U) candidate from Siwan, Mr MP Gupta, referred to Article 326 of the Constitution which barred people involved in crime to be registered as a voter.

Counsels of the three respondents—Election Commission of India, the Union and state governments—argued that though the voting rights of prisoners got suspended during their stay in jail they still remained electors being citizens of the country and their names figuring in the voters list hence they cannot be denied the right to contest elections. — PTI



CEC declines comment

Kolkata, April 30
Chief Election Commissioner TS Krishnamurthy today declined to comment on the Patna High Court’s direction to the Election Commission to consider countermanding the polls in constituencies from where prisoners had entered the fray.

“We have not received any copy of the high court judgement and I don’t want to make any comment on it,” Mr Krishnamurthy told reporters at Raj Bhavan here. — PTI


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