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Another jolt to jailed NCP leaders, HC denies Anil Deshmukh, Nawab Malik’s pleas to vote in MLC polls

Both leaders are in judicial custody as they are being probed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on alleged money-laundering charges.

Nawab Malik and Anil Deshmukh.

The Bombay High Court on Friday dismissed pleas filed by jailed NCP leaders Nawab Malik and Anil Deshmukh seeking leave from prison in order to cast their votes for the upcoming June 20 Maharashtra Legislative Council (MLC) elections. Earlier, Malik told the HC that he was merely asking for a police escort to accompany him for voting, and not an interim bail.

Both leaders are in judicial custody as they are being probed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on alleged money-laundering charges. The ED, while citing Section 62(5) of the Representation of People’s Act, 1951 (RPA), said that a person in jail cannot cast a vote.

While pointing out that the MLC is an indirect form of election, the Bombay HC asked whether by not allowing the jailed leaders to vote, the people in the constituency are also being deprived of participating in the elections. Malik’s counsel argued that if an accused can file his nomination for elections, what stops the court from allowing Malik to vote for the upcoming polls, while providing examples of several past instances where prisoners were allowed to participate in oath-taking ceremonies and participate in election rallies.

Appearing for former Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, advocate Vikram Chaudhri told HC that no law can stop the court from exercising its discretion in ordering his client’s interim release for casting his vote.

Objecting to the submissions by the NCP leaders’ counsel, Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh said that where the law clearly states that a prisoner cannot cast a vote, there is no question of exercising discretion as the court can only interpret, and not change the law.

Ahead of the Rajya Sabha elections, the Bombay High Court had also refused to entertain Nawab Malik’s urgent plea challenging a special court order, while seeking an interim release for voting in the Upper House elections. The special court had denied permission to both Malik and Deshmukh to be released temporarily to cast their votes for the Rajya Sabha polls.

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