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PIL challenges law allowing person in jail to contest polls, Punjab and Haryana High Court issues notice

The plea said it is a loophole, which allows even a convict to contest the elections.

By: Express News Service | Chandigarh | Updated: January 14, 2020 3:35:26 am
PIL challenges law allowing person in jail to contest polls, Punjab and Haryana HC issues notice The plea before the high court said the Constitution does not see elector as disjunct or different from a voter. (Representational Image)

THE PUNJAB and Haryana High Court Monday issued notice to the Centre on a petition challenging the provision of a law, which allows even an imprisoned person to file nomination papers for an election. The plea said it is a loophole, which allows even a convict to contest the elections.

While Section 62 (5) Representation of the People Act bars a lawfully imprisoned person (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) from voting, a 2013 amendment in the law provides that the person even if barred from voting shall not cease to be an elector, whose name has been entered in the electoral rolls.

Section 3 of the Act, which deals with qualification, creates a distinction between an elector and a voter – an elector is qualified to be chosen as a public representative. The plea before the high court said the Constitution does not see elector as disjunct or different from a voter. The petition filed by Ganesh Khemka, a judicial clerk at Supreme Court, said the legal position violates the “rudimentary logic” that one must first be eligible to vote if they are to contest elections as the set of candidates is only a sub-set of the voters.

“The eligibility threshold for voting was much lower than the threshold for contesting elections, and allowing the latter over the former, defies reason. This classification between ‘electors eligible to vote’ and ‘electors not eligible to vote, but eligible to contest’ is absenting any rationale, except to allow a loophole for convicts to contest elections,” said the petitioner in his plea filed through advocate Shreenath A Khemka.

The petitioner last year also had challenged a provision in the same Act allowing a lawmaker to continue holding their seat even if convicted and sentenced for a period of less than two years. It was contended that the Section 8(3) of the RP Act, by segregating the imprisonment terms of less than two years as “non-actionable ground of disqualification”, is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India. Section 8 (1) and Section 8 (2) provide for disqualification for convictions of particular set of offences but Section 8 (3) provides for disqualification only if the sentence is for a minimum period of two years and more. The matter also is pending.

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