NEW DELHI - The Supreme Court on April 4 issued notice to the central government on a public interest litigation that has sought to bar people in jail from contesting polls. The apex court issued the notice following the PIL challenging the amendment to the Representation of the People Act. The notice is returnable in four weeks. Petitioner M.L. Sharma has challenged the Feb 6, 2014,
Delhi High Court order dismissing his plea. The High Court had said debarring the people in jail from contesting polls would encourage the politics of vendetta. Sharma in his plea said that if the amendment to the Representation of the People Act that now allows jailbirds to contest elections was not suspended, several criminals would contest polls and enter parliament/legislatures and this would defeat the efforts to root out criminals from politics. Sharma said it was necessary to put on hold the amendment to the act for holding free and fair elections, which was essence of democracy, and for keeping criminals away from political theatre. The Delhi High Court while sustaining the amendment to the act Feb 6 had said: “Extending curtailment of the right to vote of a person in prison to the right to stand in election would, in our opinion, leave the door open for practice of ‘vendetta politics’ by ruling parties.” ”All that a politician/ruling party-in-power would need to do to prevent rivals from contesting an election is to ask the police to file a case and to arrest the rivals,” the High Court had said. This was in contrast to the Supreme Court’s July 10, 2013, ruling that if a person in jail is not entitled to vote, even if his name figured in the voters list, then he is also not entitled to contest election. Parliament overturned this verdict Sep 6, 2013, by amending the Representation of the People Act, and allowing those jailed to contest elections.