Prisoners do not have voting rights : EC tells Delhi HC

On Monday, The Delhi High Court was informed by the Election Commission of India (ECI) that prisoners do not have voting rights under the Representation of People Act and it has been upheld by the Supreme Court.

The poll panel said the right to vote is a statutory right created under Section 62 of the Representation of People Act, and the law is settled that the “right to vote being a statutory right is subject to the restrictions prescribed in the RP Act”.

The ECI filed its affidavit before a bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar on a petition filed by three law students seeking to grant and facilitate voting rights to all persons lodged in jails across the country.

The petition has challenged the constitutionality of section 62(5) of the RP Act, which deprives prisoners of their right to vote.

The ECI referred to a 1997 judgement of the Supreme Court in which it was held that the effect of sub-section (5) of section 62 of the act is that any person who is confined in prison while serving a sentence of imprisonment on his conviction for any offence or is under lawful confinement in a prison or in a police custody for any reason is not entitled to vote in an election.

But this restriction does not apply to a person subjected to any kind of preventive detention, the judgement said. The poll panel contended that the plea does not merit the consideration of the court and it be dismissed.

“In view of the settled legal position with regard to the constitutionality of section 62(5), the present writ petition does not raise any new grounds for consideration by this court,” it said.

Praveen Kumar Chaudhary, Atul Kumar Dubey and Prerna Singh who study law contended in their plea that a blanket ban on the prisoner’s right to vote was a violation of the spirit and soul enshrined in the Constitution and the basic principle of equality.

The petition said that all persons in any kind of confinement either in the jails or police station or at any other place shall be allowed to vote and requisite facilities for the same shall be made available.

The plea, filed through advocate Kamlesh Mishra, said the denial of voting rights will cut-off the prisoners from the mainstream political decision making of world’s largest democracy.