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Prisoners Right To Vote: To Be Or Not To Be

An ambiguous situation came forward when a PIL for prisoner’s right to vote came up for admission in Supreme Court on 16th April 2019, by a Law Student.

 It led to a lot of thinking by the Judges as well as the general people, the CJI-led bench posed queries regarding the petitioner, his interest in the subject and reason for choosing the particular cause.

"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", said the bench of CJI and Justice Sanjiv Khanna in the order.

The petition was filed by Aditya Prasanna Bhattacharya, a student of National Law School of India University, challenging Section 62(5) of the Representation of the People Act 1951, which says that no person shall vote at any election if he is confined in a prison. The petition states that the Section is broadly worded so as to affect even under trials and persons detained in civil prison.

This provision was upheld in Anukul Chandra Pradhan v Union of India (1997) 6 SCC 1, on the ground that it seeks to achieve the objective of decriminalization of politics. The petitioner argues that the decision is per incursion as the decision did not take into account the fact that right to vote is a constitutional right as per Article 326, and that the decision did not correctly appreciate the challenge on the basis of Article 14. The petitioner also points out that similar provisions curtailing prisoners' right to vote have been struck down by Supreme Courts of Canada and South Africa and the European Court of Human Rights.
 
As to the author this point seems perfectly valid, and points out a loophole in the legal system and its interpretation.

The prisoners are denied most of the rights, but still are Citizens of India, and as per given this status, they should be allowed to cast vote and choose their leaders. The working of the Police Departments, the situation and living conditions of jails are also an important issue for the prisoners living there.

Our constitution allows the prisoners who are out on bail, The Right to vote, but not those who are still confined, why so? Why this discrimination? Just because most of the does not have enough money and resources to get themselves a Bail? Many of them are in there because of false accusations, less resources to get out. Why are they deprived of this Right?

A serious question to note: If an under trial person can fought for election, why not a prisoner can cast her or his vote.

This is where the difference of opinions comes into view, and this is where the Judiciary needs to looks forward. To Be Or Not To Be

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