New Delhi: The Supreme Court has barred those in jail from contesting elections, a landmark ruling that will prevent jailed politicians from contesting even if they are not convicted of any crime yet.
This judgement came along with the court's verdict on Wednesday that MPs and MLAs convicted of a crime would stand disqualified from the date of conviction, and could not stay on even if they appealed to a higher court.
The top court has confirmed the 2004 order of the Patna High court, and agreed that "If a jailed person can't vote, a jailed person can't contest elections."
"A right to vote is a statutory right, the law gives it, and the law takes it away. Persons convicted of crime are kept away from elections. The court has no hesitation in interpreting the Constitution and the Laws framed under it, that persons in the lawful custody of the police also will not be voters, in which case, they will neither be electors. The law temporarily takes away the power of such persons to go anywhere near the election scene," said the Supreme Court.
Simply put, a person can't contest if he's in jail or police custody during the elections.
This could affect politicians like Jagan Reddy, who had been in jail for over a year in a disproportionate assets case.
The verdict is in response to a petition filed in 2004 by the Election Commission, which had been asked by the Patna High Court to strike off names of jailed persons from the voters list.
The poll panel had argued that the election process had already started, and it was too late to change the voters list. The Supreme Court had stayed the high court order at the time.
But experts say the verdict could be controversial, as it would bar jailed persons from contesting even if they have not been charge-sheeted. Many politicians say it opens a can of worms as it can be easily misused against political rivals.
Political parties had also been wary of the verdict disqualifying convicted MPs, since they feared it could be misused for score-settling, though parties like the Congress and BJP had officially welcomed it.