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SC bans people behind bars from contesting polls

After holding that MPs and MLAs would be disqualified from fighting elections from the date of conviction, the Supreme Court has now barred jailed politicians from the poll fray even if they are yet to be convicted. The apex court said that a person, who is in jail or in police custody, cannot contest election to legislative bodies. It said only an elector can contest the polls and he/she ceases the right to cast vote due to confinement in prison or being in custody of police.

The court made it clear that disqualification would not be applicable to persons subjected to preventive detention under any law.
A bench of justices A K Patnaik and SJ Mukhopadhayay upheld a Patna high court judgment agreeing that if a jailed person cannot vote, a jailed person cannot contest elections. The court was hearing an appeal filed by the Chief Election Commissioner and others challenging a Patna high court order barring people in police custody to contest polls.

This judgment of the Supreme Court could affect leaders like Jaganmohan Reddy of YSR Congress, former Haryana chief minister Om Prakash Chautala and his MLA son Ajay Chautala, former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda and former Haryana minister Gopal Kanda among others.
The bench, referring to the Representation of Peoples’ Act, said that the Act (Section 4 & 5) lays down the qualifications for membership of the House of the People and Legislative Assembly and one of the qualifications laid down is that he must be an elector. It said Section 62(5) of the Act 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. Reading Sections 4, 5 and 62(5) together, the apex court came to the conclusion that a person in jail or police custody cannot contest election.

‘We do not find any infirmity in the findings of the High Court in the impugned common order that a person who has no right to vote by virtue of the provisions of sub-section (5) of Section 62 of the 1951 Act is not an elector and is therefore not qualified to contest the election to the House of the People or the Legislative Assembly of a State,’ said the court.

This verdict was delivered on Wednesday, on the day the apex court in a landmark judgment held the provision -- sub-section (4) of Section 8 of the Representation of People Act (RP Act) – ultra vires and that the disqualification takes place from the date of conviction.

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