TNN | Apr 3, 2014, 02.30 AM IST

HYDERABAD: Prisoners, both convicts and under trials, in the country, cannot vote in the elections. This issue has been settled once again by the Election Commission of India (EC). But there is still confusion among prison officials regarding voting rights of prisoners. Officials agree that convicts cannot vote but in so far as under trials are concerned, they say they can exercise their franchise if they want to. Prison officials, however, maintain there has never been an instance of under trials casting votes in any election so far.

There is, however, an exception. Those who have been detained under the Goondas Act, National Security Act (NSA) and Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act (Cofeposa) can cast their votes from prison itself. A ballot paper is sent to the detainee in prison and he can cast his vote. The ballot paper is sent back to the returning officers by the prisons department.

That under trials cannot cast their votes has been made clear in the latest General Elections 2014 Reference Handbook but there still seems to be confusion about it in the prison department. An official of the department said, if under trials want to cast their votes, the prison will facilitate that. However, the prisoner will have to ask his family to get his voter identity card.

Based on the voter identity card, prison officials will inform district election officers or returning officers. They will then send ballot papers and the under trials will be able to cast their votes on polling day. “However, nobody has even taken the interest to cast their vote,” a senior official said.

What is more important to note is that the EC has ruled that under trials, apart from convicts, cannot vote. “No, prisoners cannot vote,” said M A Fahim Saberi, OSD in the office of the chief electoral officer.

Chapter 43 of the General Elections 2014 Reference Handbook also makes it clear saying, “Under trial prisoners and persons confined in prison otherwise are not eligible to vote, even if their names are registered in the electoral votes. However, persons under preventive detention are eligible to vote by post as per Section 62 (5).” According to Section 62 (5) of the Representation of the People Act, 1952, “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 police.” The sub-section further provides that nothing in it will apply to persons subjected to preventive detention under any law.

Cherlapalli central prison superintendent K S Srinivasa Rao told TOI that there were a few detainees in prison who would be eligible to vote and it will be facilitated through postal ballot.

There are 4,613 convicts in AP jails as on date. Apart from them, there are also 9,743 under trials.

According to sources, there are five detainees and nine civil prisoners and only they will be eligible to vote.

Enhanced by Zemanta