M A I N   N E W S

Poll panel to challenge HC order on prisoners
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 4
The Election Commission today decided to move the Supreme Court challenging the Patna High Court order asking it to consider countermanding elections in those constituencies from where ‘criminals’ lodged in jails were contesting.

The special leave petition (SLP) against the High Court order would be filed by the EC tomorrow in the Apex Court, the Deputy Election Commissioner A.N. Jha told reporters here.

The decision of the Election Commission to approach the Supreme Court was taken after over an hour-long meeting of the full commission today.

The grounds on which the poll panel would challenge the High Court order, EC counsel S. Muralidhar said, was that the judiciary had no power to interfere in the poll process, which was an exclusive domain of the Election Commission.

Neither was there any provision under the existing law to prevent prisoners to contest elections even though their right to vote was suspended.

The commission was of the view that if the High Court directive was neither legally nor practically tenable as it could not be implemented in isolation.

While the poll panel welcomed the High Court order, which attempted to cleanse political system from criminalisation, it was up to the legislature to enact laws debarring prisoners from contesting the polls.

Although the High Court had passed the direction on two PILs highlighting six candidates lodged in Bihar jails contesting elections, there were several such candidates in the poll fray in other states too, and the polling for half of the Lok Sabha seats had already been completed.

The High Court had said that since prisoners had no right to vote, they could not be allowed to contest the election either.

The EC counsel said if the courts started interfering in the election process after it was set in motion, it would disrupt the entire process.

The Patna HC had directed the commission to consider countermanding elections in constituencies contested by prisoners, whose voting right had been suspended under the election laws.

The High Court had passed the order on two PILs seeking disqualification of those who had entered 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 had said.

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