TIMES OF INDIA: State moves to get prisoners their voting rights

May 31, 2010
Times of India

The state government has initiated a process whereby undertrials and convicts can cast their votes. India is one of the very few countries that does not allow prisoners to vote. Despite the state's best efforts, legislations could not be amended on time to allow prisoners to cast their votes this time.

However, the matter will now be consistently pursued jointly by the state election commission and the state home department, it has been decided.

The issue was first taken up in February by the state prisons department. A note had been sent to the home department, saying that as many as 20,000 prisoners in 54 prisons of the state would be able to exercise their franchise if the state allowed them to vote. The home department was requested to take the matter up with the state election commission.

"We argued that the Representation of the People Act, which lays down the rules and regulations for elections, prevents prisoners from casting their votes, but it does not clearly lay down conditions for panchayat and municipal elections," said ADG (prisons) B D Sharma.

Ardhendu Sen, who was the erstwhile home secretary, met state election commissioner Meera Pandey to find out if matters could be resolved before the municipal elections.

However, while initially it was thought that the matter regarding local polls could be decided by the state, it did not turn out to be so. "However, after deliberating on the issue the state election commission has reverted to say that the matter can only be resolved by the EC," Sen added.