New Delhi: The Delhi high court on Monday allowed a plea by the Election Commission (EC) opposing custody parole granted to Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MLA Mukhtar Ansari to campaign for the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections.
In effect, Ansari will not be allowed to leave the prison to campaign for Mau constituency in Uttar Pradesh. Ansari is the sitting MLA for the constituency, a position he has held for the last four terms.
He remains in judicial custody since December 2005, on the charge of murder of Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Krishnanand Rai. The trial in the case is going on.
The court held the conduct of free and fair elections of the utmost importance and said, “The requirement of a candidate to canvass in an election for himself is always subservient to the larger public interest i.e. the constitutional mandate of holding a free and fair election. No candidate can be permitted to do any act which interferes with the process of a free and fair election."
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On 16 February, a trial court granted custody parole to Ansari owing to the fact that he had been earlier allowed to campaign for elections in this manner. The permission enabled Ansari to leave the prison each day between 7am to 8pm till 4 March.
Custody parole refers to the permission to leave the prison premises escorted by police personnel for a limited period each day.
Parole is a temporary release for a special purpose, the court noted. Such release could not “extend for long periods and for daily visits" and could not replace grant of bail, the court said.
Accordingly, justice Mukta Gupta found the trial court’s order illegal and set it aside.
Explaining the rights vested with an individual contesting an election, judge Gupta noted that these rights did not include the right to campaign and canvass.
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“A right to contest the election cannot imply that the candidate gets a right to be released from jail for canvassing as a candidate for being elected," the court said.
“When a person in custody fills up a nomination for candidature, he does not get a vested right to be released for canvassing. He runs the risk of being not released on bail to canvas for himself," the court added, in its 23-page order.
The Election Commission had moved the Delhi high court against the trial court order contending that allowing Ansari to canvass would impact free and fair elections in the constituency. According to the court order, the Commission had presented sealed cover material to show that law and order situation worsened during canvassing in 2012 when Ansari was released.