upsc race 05 May 2020
Archit Uniyal 05 May 2020
In India, the convicts do not have the right to vote. Recently in a petition in the Delhi High Court, the Election Commission of India informed the Court that prisoners do not have voting rights under the Representation of People (RP) Act.
This is not the first time that the constitutional validity of Section 62 (5) of the (RP) Act has been challenged. In 1997, as part of the case Anukul Chandra Pradhan v. Union Of India And Others, the petitioner too argued that the sub-section violated Article 14 (equality before law) of the Constitution, and also of Article 21, as the “restriction placed on the right to vote denied dignity of life".
The law is in direct breach of the Constitution. Article 326 of the Constitution clearly lays down that the right to vote in India should only be decided through suffrage and nothing else.
As per Section 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the United Nations, which accords universal suffrage to all adults, with no bar for age, gender, or status of incarceration.
Section 62(5) was further at odds with Section 21 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and thus in violation of Section 51 of the Constitution that mandates respect for international treaties.
Chapter 43 of the Reference Handbook on the General Elections, released by the Election Commission in 2014, further excluded under-trial prisoners from voting even if their names are on electoral rolls.
However, as per Section 62(5) if the Representation Act, those being held under preventive detention can participate in elections and cast their vote via postal ballots. In 2014, the Election Commission also confirmed that detainees had the right to vote, but not under-trials and convicts
As per the National Crime Records Bureau's 'Prison Statistics India, 2014', there were 2,82,879 under-trials and 1,31,517 convicts lodged across 1,387 prison in India.
The fact that those who have committed crimes like murder, rape, and loot are denied voting rights, just like those serving sentences for pettier or less grievous crimes.
the courts have declared voting to be protected under freedom of expression—Article 19 (1) (a)—as well as a constitutional right. But unfortunately, a lot of confusion remains over its status, as it is not specifically guaranteed as a fundamental right.
Hence it is not fair and reasonable to not allow prisoners to give vote when they are in custody and the law needs to be amended taking into consideration aspects like the crime committed and legal rights of a person.
Hope this solves your query.