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Posted at: Apr 18, 2019, 9:16 PM; last updated: Apr 18, 2019, 9:16 PM (IST)

Law student moves SC for prisoners’ right to vote

Law student moves SC for prisoners’ right to vote
Photo for representation.

Tribune News Service
New Delhi, April 18

A law student has moved the Supreme Court to secure right to vote for prisoners who are currently debarred from exercising their franchise.

Petitioner Aditya Prasanna Bhattacharya—a student of National Law School of India University, Bangalore—challenged Section 62(5) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which says: “No person shall vote at any election if he is confined in a prison, whether under a sentence of imprisonment or transportation or otherwise, or is in the lawful custody of the police.”

A Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi wanted to know why he was interested in prisoners’ rights.

“Before we entertain this petition under Article 32, filed as public interest litigation, we would like to know more about the petitioner; his interest in the subject matter and why he has picked up this particular cause to be raised and that too by an Article 32 petition”, it said in a brief order.

“The above query of ours, we make it clear, has no connection with the merits of the contentions raised,” the Bench said posting the matter for further hearing after two weeks.

Contending that Section 62(5) of RPA was broadly worded and affected even undertrial prisoners and those detained in civil prison, the petitioner pointed out that persons on bail were allowed to vote. The provision violated right to equality guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution as it was discriminatory.

“There is no conceivable object that the classification envisaged by the impugned provision seeks to achieve. Even if decriminalization of politics is said to be the object..., it cannot be conceived how the impugned provision, which deprives prisoners of their right to vote, has any nexus at all with decriminalisation of politics, which is concerned with the right to contest of candidates with criminal antecedents,” the petitioner submitted.

The petitioner submitted that similar provisions curtailing prisoners’ right to vote had been struck down by Supreme Courts of Canada and South Africa and the European Court of Human Rights.

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