Indian Express

Why those behind bars be allowed to contest elections, SC asks government

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This amendment was brought in to nullify a judgement by the Supreme Court, barring all those in lawful custody from contesting elections. This amendment was brought in to nullify a judgement by the Supreme Court, barring all those in lawful custody from contesting elections.

The Supreme Court on Friday questioned the government as to why those behind the bar should be allowed to contest elections and sought a justification over a latest amendment in law allowing this.

A bench led by Justice H L Dattu admitted a petition, challenging the validity of the amendment in the Representation of the People Act, and sought the Centre’s response in four weeks.

The petition, filed by advocate M L Sharma, was earlier dismissed by the Delhi High Court, which opined that barring a person in any form of lawful custody from contesting elections could leave the door open for practice of “vendetta politics”.

The HC had noted that such a prohibition on the ground of de-criminalisation of politics was an instance of a remedy being worse than the disease. It said the Indian criminal justice system was based on the principle of “innocent till proven guilty”, and hence undertrials could not be put on par with those held guilty for the purpose of closing their right to contest.

Sharma, in his petition, had contended that the amendment to the Representation of the People Act, made by parliament in September last year, was unconstitutional and for the sole benefit of the political parties.

The amendment in the act enables arrested people to contest elections as a person does not cease to be an elector only by reason of his being in police custody or in imprisonment. This amendment was brought in to nullify a judgement by the Supreme Court, barring all those in lawful custody from contesting elections.

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