Amritpal Singh To Fight From Punjab: Can A Jailed Person Contest Election? FAQs Answered

Amritpal Singh, Khalistan supporter and 'Waris Punjab De' chief, filed his nomination from the Khadoor Sahib seat in Punjab to contest the ongoing Lok Sabha election. But Singh is lodged in Dibrugarh jail in Assam and charged under the NSA. Can a jailed person contest election? What happens if the candidate wins? Read on to know.
Amritpal Singh, 'Waris Punjab De' chief, is currently lodged in Assam jail.

Amritpal Singh, 'Waris Punjab De' chief, is currently lodged in Assam jail.

Chandigarh: Jailed Khalistani-supporter Amritpal Singh today filed his nomination for the Lok Sabha election from the Khadoor Sahib seat in Punjab. The 'Waris Punjab De' chief is currently lodged in Assam jail after he was arrested in April last year and was charged under the stringent National Security Act invoked against him.
The fact that Amritpal Singh filed his nomination despite being in the jail and that the Election Commission accepted his papers lead to several questions around the nomination rules. Can a jailed leader contest election? What happens if a jailed candidate wins election? How does a jailed candidate campaign for elections?

Can A Jailed Leader Fight Election?

The Representation of the People Act, 1951 disqualifies those convicted of an offence and given a prison sentence of two years and more from membership of Parliament and state Legislatures. But the Act does not prevent undertrials from contesting elections.
Section 8 (3) of the Act says: “A person convicted of any offence and sentenced to imprisonment for not less than two years…shall be disqualified from the date of such conviction and shall continue to be disqualified for a further period of six years since his release.”
Amritpal Singh has not been convicted yet. So, he can contest the Lok Sabha elections, like many others before him.

How Does A Jailed Candidate File Nomination?

To file nomination papers, either the candidate or the proposer has to appear in person before the Returning Officer (RO) with a complete nomination form.
In Amritpal Singh's case, his nomination was filed at the office of the District Returning Officer by his lawyer, Harjot Singh, who was companied by his relative Sukhchain Singh and five others on behalf of him.

How Does A Jailed Candidate Campaign?

A jailed person cannot campaign for himself or his party given that he has no direct access to the outside world or the voters. He, however, can convey his messages through his party members.
Notably, on May 1, the Delhi High Court dismissed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) which sought direction to the Election Commission of India to develop a mechanism promptly to ensure that political leaders and candidates would be allowed to campaign virtually with reasonable restrictions.
"We can't allow someone who is in custody to run a campaign. Otherwise, all rapists, murderers will start floating political parties just prior to the elections," the bench said.
The court was hearing a petition by Amarjeet Gupta, a law student, who was aggrieved by the timing of the arrest of politicians, particularly Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, after the announcement of the model code of conduct by the ECI.
In case of Amritpal Singh, his campaign will be managed by Paramjit Kaur Khalra, the wife of human rights activist Jaswant Singh Khalra, his father said. Paramjit Kaur Khalra had unsuccessfully contested the Khadoor Sahib seat in 2019.

Who Will Amritpal Singh Contest Against?

The Shiromani Akali Dal has fielded former MLA Virsa Singh Valtoha while the Aam Aadmi Party has named Transport Minister Laljit Singh Bhullar and the BJP's candidate is Manjit Singh Manna Mianwind from the seat. The Congress has fielded former MLA Kulbir Singh Zira from this seat.
SAD's Rattan Singh Ajnala won the seat in the 2009 general elections while Akali nominee Ranjit Singh Brahmpura clinched the seat in 2014.
Formed in 2008, the Khadoor Sahib Lok Sabha constituency comprises nine assembly constituencies -- Jandiala, Tarn Taran, Khem Karan, Patti, Khadoor Sahib, Baba Bakala, Kapurthala, Sultanpur Lodhi and Zira.
Khadoor Sahib Lok Sabha seat will go to polls in the seventh phase on June 1 and the counting of votes will be done on June 4.

What Happens If A Jailed Candidate Wins?

According to the law, in case a jailed candidate wins the elections, he or she can be released from jail to take the oath, as there is no provision to administer the oath inside the prison.

Famous wins from behind bars

In the post-Emergency 1977 elections, socialist leader George Fernandes contested elections from Muzaffarpur in Bihar while he was still behind bars. Fernandes defeated the Congress candidate by around 3 lakh votes.
In 1996, don-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari contested and won the Mau Assembly seat in Uttar Pradesh on a BSP ticket while he was in prison.
The same year, former Union minister Kalpanath Rai, who was behind bars in 1996 in a TADA case, contested Lok Sabha polls from behind bars and won the Ghosi constituency.
In 2022, SP leader and nine-time Rampur MLA Azam Khan won the Rampur Assembly seat by 55,000 votes while still in jail. Later, Khan was disqualified from the Assembly seat following his conviction in an alleged hate speech case of 2019. Another SP leader Nahid Hassan contested the Kairana Assembly seat in 2022 from jail and won.
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