Greetings of the day!
This post is in response to the query posted above.
As you rightly said, in our country, prisoners are barred from exercising their democratic right of voting under Section 62(5) of the Representation of People Act. This provision was inserted right at the time of drafting the statute. Since then, very few lawmakers have stood up to amend and modify it to allow prisoners to cast their votes. Usually, debates on improving prison conditions are limited, where arguments favouring their voting rights find a very little or no space at all. Yet there are some voices in support of the same. For instance, even recently a PIL was filed in Uttar Pradesh, by three students, challenging the Constitutional validity of Section 62(5) of the RPA. However, there has been little impact.
Let's see what are the reasons stated by those who are against providing prisoners the right to vote. This is important because we need to know their perspective too.
1) It is not unconstitutional to deprive a prisoner from casting his/her vote as the same is not a fundamental right but only a legal right conferred by the Government, and the same can be taken away by it at appropriate circumstances.
2) It is a common belief that a person who commits an offence does a wrong by going against the will of the law, and therefore he cannot engage himself in the law making process.
3) A prisoner usually loses many of his rights on committing a wrong, and is provided with only some basic rights that includes right to life, free trial, speedy disposal of case, legal aid, just and humane treatment, etc. Since voting is not considered as the so called basic right, the authorities felt it unnecessary to give it to them.
There might be many more of such reasons, however, I have listed only a few. So, if we go by these Opinions, it is certain that no person who is convicted of an offence shall be allowed to be part of the law making process. However, we do find persons with criminal antecedents standing in Elections. That is, they are being eligible to be the law makers themselves. If this is so, then there is no harm in giving prisoners their right to vote because this right is barred even to undertrials, and in India we have lakhs of such undertrials.
Now, let us also see the reasons why this right should be given to them:
1) Despite being labelled as lawbreakers, these people still continue to be the citizen of our country, and by imprisonment, s/he doesn't lose her/his citizenship. With this, prisoners retain their rights and responsibilities as citizens of a country. Since voting is both a right and responsibility, it is important to allow them to vote as citizens of India.
2) Secondly, it is said that prisoners lose most of their liberties on conviction. However, they are also given some exceptions that includes the right to write. In PUCL vs. UOI (2013), voting was defined to be a medium of expression. Thus, convicts can express their this right through writing too.
3) A criminal cannot be considered unfit for participating in the democratic process because the commission of an offence would not make a person incapable of making a wise political decision.
4) Barring prisoners from voting would suppress the voices of a considerable percentage of people in India. It makes them powerless.
Some of the important opinions that can strengthen our arguments in favour of prisoners' right to vote:
1) Trop vs. Dulles (1958): Citizenship is not a right that expires upon criminality.
2) Canada's Highest Court: Voting is not just a representation but also a way through which citizens voice their grievances.
3) European Court of Human Rights: Barring prisoners from voting may harm rehabilitation work since participating in elections may encourage them to become law abiding and responsible citizens.
These opinions and views make it clear that voting isn't just a matter related to the right of prisoners but also is concerned with their freedom of expression. Barring the same will have serious consequences on both the prisoners as well the country. Hopefully, India makes a positive move in this respect, in the near future.
Hope this helps!