CONFUSING DECLARATION BY ELECTION COMMISSION OF INDIA
In a fresh declaration by election commission , 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.