Delhi HC Dismisses Plea Seeking Voting Rights for Prisoners

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News:The Delhi high court has dismissed a PIL seeking voting rights for prisoners.

Facts:

About the petition:

  • The petition had challenged the constitutionality of Section 62(5) of the Representation of People Act which deprives prisoners of their right to vote.
  • Section 62(5) says 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.
  • However,this restriction does not apply to a person subjected to any kind of preventive detention.

What has the court said?

  • The right to vote was neither a fundamental right nor a common law right and was only provided by a statute. 
  • The right to vote provided under the act was subject to restrictions imposed by the law, which does not allow prisoners to cast votes from jails.
  • The court also referred to a 1997 judgment of the apex court which had upheld Section 62(5) of the Representation of People Act.

Why should prisoners be given the right to vote?

  • The distinction needs to be made between those charged with heinous crimes like murder with that of minor offences including theft. 
  • All prisoners including under-trials and those in custody should not be denied the right to vote as their crimes have not been proven.

Voting rights of prisoners all over the world:

  • In most countries around the world, the restrictions on prisoners right to vote is restricted to convicts while those undergoing trial and detainees are eligible. 
  • There are some countries like Australia and Germany, the voting rights are based on the type of offence or the length of sentence of the prisoner.