The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to review its July 10 judgment, holding that persons in lawful custody — whether on conviction in a criminal case or otherwise — cannot contest elections.
A Bench of Justices A.K. Patnaik and S.J. Mukhopadhaya issued notice to the respondents Jan Chaukidar (People’s Watch), the Election Commission and the State of Bihar, after hearing Additional Solicitor-General L. Nageswara Rao and counsel V.K. Biju
In a 2004 judgment, the Patna High Court held that when a person in custody was disqualified from voting, he/she would be disqualified from contesting elections too.
In its July 10 order, the Supreme Court said: “We do not find any infirmity in the findings of the Patna High Court in the impugned common order that a person who has no right to vote by virtue of the provisions of Section 62 (5) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, is not an elector and is therefore not qualified to contest the election to the House of the People or the Legislative Assembly of a State.”
Mr. Rao maintained that there was a distinction provided under the Act between a disqualification attached to an ‘elector’ and to a ‘candidate.’ Further, “Article 102… specifies the grounds of disqualification of a candidate.” A person remaining in prison would not lose the status of a candidate if his name was found on the electoral roll, he said, arguing that the judgment had failed to appreciate this aspect.
“RP Act is clumsy”
Justice Patnaik asked him why the Centre did not make an appearance when the matter was being heard. He said: “The RP Act is clumsy which caused the confusion. We will examine this issue.”
The Bench also agreed to hear a petition filed by Haryana Swatantra Party president Ramesh Dalal, seeking a review of the judgment.