Prisoners’ Voting Rights: SC Issues Notice to Centre on PIL Challenging Constitutionality of Section 62(5) of RP Act

Tanisha Rana

Published on: October 31, 2022 at 21:18 IST

On Monday, the Supreme Court gave the Central government notice on a public interest litigation challenging the constitutionality of Section 62(5) of the Representation of People Act, which forbids voting by anyone imprisoned.

An appeal submitted through advocate Zoheb Hossain was given notice by a bench consisting of Chief Justice of India UU Lalit, Justices S Ravindra Bhat, and Hima Kohli, and listed the hearing of the matter to December 29, 2022.

Aditya Prasanna Bhattacharya, then a third-year law student at the National Law School of India University, Bangalore, submitted the public interest litigation (PIL) petition more than three years ago, in 2019.

He drew attention to the fact that the text of Section 62(5) employs “confinement” as the standard, leading to various inconsistencies.

Anyone who is imprisoned is denied the right to vote in any election under Section 62(5). The provision states:

“No person shall vote at any election is 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.”

“Provided that nothing in this sub-section shall apply to a person subjected to preventive detention under any law for the time being in force.”

According to the PIL, in addition to those who have been found guilty and given prison sentences, those who are still awaiting trial and whose guilt or innocence has not yet been established are also denied the right to vote because they are being held in jail even though they have not yet received a prison sentence.

However, a convict who is imprisoned as part of their sentence can still vote if they are freed on bail because they are not necessarily imprisoned, according to the petition.

The petition added that because to the provision’s too inclusive phrasing, which defines “confinement” as a “sentence of imprisonment…or otherwise,” a person imprisoned in a civil prison is also denied the right to vote.

The petition claimed that because the provision lacks any sort of logical classification based on the type of crime committed or the duration of the sentence imposed, it works as a blanket ban.

The petitioner stressed in his argument that this lack of classification violates Article 14’s Fundamental Right to Equality.

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