April 3, 2009

Prisoners should be allowed to vote: WB Govt

Kolkata (PTI): The West Bengal government has forwarded a proposal to the Election Commission that prisoners be allowed to vote during polls. A draft rule to the West Bengal Correctional Services Act empowering prisoners to cast votes has been forwarded to Election Commission.

"The proposal has been sent by IG (Prisons). We are looking at how it can be worked out in the state. A lot of work needs to be done," Jail minister Biswanath Chowdhury said. Convicts and undertrials are debarred by the Representation of People's Act 1951 from exercising their franchise. "According to the Act undertrials or convicts are disallowed to vote, but if they are out on bail or those in preventive detention are allowed to do so," Inspector General of Prisons, B D Sharma told PTI.

Sharma, giving an example, said that a murder accused on bail would be able to vote, while those who could not arrange for bail would be deprived of the right as they were behind bars. "This is unfortunate and the Act demands amendment. I have been fighting for it from a long time," Sharma said, adding that even prisoners in Bangladesh were allowed to vote, besides in all developed nations.

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