Plea in SC on voting rights of undertrials and convicts

Provision violates the right to equality, it says

April 18, 2019 10:22 pm | Updated 10:22 pm IST - NEW DELHI

The Supreme Court is hearing a plea filed by a law student questioning an electoral law which denies undertrials and convicts their right to vote.

A Bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, on April 16, scheduled the case after a fortnight. The court is also interested to learn why Aditya Prasanna Bhattacharya, the student at the National Law School India University at Bengaluru, is interested in this particular subject and why he has sought to move the petition under Article 32. It however added that its queries had nothing to do with the merits of the petition.

Section 62(5) of the Representation of People Act of 1951 mandates that “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”.

The provisions however exempt a person held under preventive detention from this rigour.

The petition, represented by advocate Zoheb Hossain, highlights how the Section sees both an undertrial and a convicted person equally. The former’s guilt is yet to be proved in a court. A person is innocent until proven guilty by law. Despite this, it denies an undertrial the right to vote but allows a detainee the same. However, a person out on bail is allowed to cast his vote.

The plea argued that the provision violates the rights to equality, vote (Article 326) and is arbitrary. It is not a reasonable restriction.

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