Jailed politicos in fray under SC lens

Jailed politicos in fray under SC lens

The Supreme Court on Friday decided to examine the legal validity of an amendment in the law allowing those behind bars to contest elections.

A bench of Justices H L Dattu and S A Bobde issued a notice to the Centre on a petition challenging the constitutional validity of the amendment in the Representation of the People Act. The Amendment and Validation Act, 2013, was introduced to modify the RP Act to enable arrested persons to contest elections. This had become necessary after the Supreme Court had, on July 10 last year, explained the RP Act and ruled that a person who is in jail or in police custody cannot contest elections to legislative bodies.

The apex court had held only an “elector” could contest the polls and he/she ceased to have the right to cast a vote due to confinement in prison or being in the custody of police. Advocate M L Sharma approached the apex court claiming that through the amendment in Section 62 (5) of R P Act, Parliament imposed a qualification enabling prisoners to vote, which would in turn lead to criminalisation and hit the basic structure of the Constitution. The validity of Section 62 (5) has been upheld by a Constitution bench of the apex court in 1997, he submitted in his special leave petition.

He challenged the February 6 order of the Delhi High Court, which had upheld the legal sanctity of the amendment allowing those imprisoned pending adjudication in cases and not convicts to fight elections. 

The counsel contended that the impugned amendment was contrary to the interest of the general public as criminals can contest elections and enter Parliament or the legislative assembly.

The HC had dismissed Sharma’s PIL, which said extending curtailment of the right to vote of a person in prison to the right to stand in election would leave the door open for practice of 'vendetta politics' by ruling parties. All that a politician or ruling party in power would need to do to prevent rivals from contesting an election is to ask the police to file a case and arrest them, the HC had said.

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