Amritpal Singh, Er Rashid Won Lok Sabha Polls From Jail But How Will They Work?

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Amritpal Singh, Er Rashid Won Lok Sabha Polls From Jail But How Will They Work?

The Lok Sabha election results, declared earlier this week, have delivered a bolt from the blue in many aspects, including the Congress’ comeback.

According to the Election Commission, the BJP has bagged 240 seats – falling short of the majority mark of 272 – while the Congress has won 99, upping their 2019 tally by 42 seats. In addition, seven Independents have been elected to the Lok Sabha this time around, of which, two contested the elections from prison.

The first one is Abdul Rashid Sheikh, also known as Engineer Rashid, who won from the Baramulla constituency in Jammu and Kashmir. He defeated National Conference leader Omar Abdullah by a margin of over two lakh votes.

The second one is Sikh leader and ‘Waris Punjab De’ chief Amritpal Singh. Amritpal won from Punjab’s Khadoor Sahib constituency by a margin of 1.97 lakh votes.

Even as both the leaders remained in confinement, each of their families took it upon themselves to campaign for the elections in their respective constituencies.

But the question that now arises is how these leaders will fulfill their duties as elected Members of Parliament (MPs) while being in jail – will they get interim bail for taking oath, will their cases be fast-tracked and what if they get convicted? The Quint speaks to legal experts to answer these questions:

But First, Who Is Engineer Rashid?

Rashid was arrested by the National Investigating Agency (NIA) on 9 October 2021 – in the aftermath of the abrogation of Article 370 in J&K – for his alleged links to a case related to funding terror activities in Kashmir. He has been in Tihar jail ever since. He was one of the first mainstream politicians to be booked under various sections of the stringent anti-terror law.

The 56-year-old contested from the Baramulla parliamentary constituency in Kashmir on a ticket of the Awami Ittehad Party (AIP), whose election symbol was a pressure cooker. AIP office bearers had filed the nomination papers on Rashid’s behalf before the Returning Officer.

“According to Representation of the People Act, 1951 does not debar undertrials from contesting elections or holding public office,” Yashaswini Basu, who works with Vidhi Centre For Legal Policy, told The Quint. However, incarcerated candidates are not allowed to cast their vote as per the Act.

Rashid was first elected to the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly in 2008, when he had won as an Independent from the Langate seat in Kupwara district. He was re-elected from the seat in 2014.

He had also contested the 2019 Lok Sabha elections from Baramulla as an Independent but lost to JKNC’s Akbar Lone by a margin of over 31,000 votes.

His 21-year-old son Abrar campaigned using the slogan “Your vote is for my innocent father” and “Jail ka badla vote se (The revenge of imprisonment by a vote)”, Kashmir-based journalists Irshad Hussain and Mubashir Naik had earlier written for The Quint. Abrar even said that since he had no funds to spearhead the election campaign, locals bore the expenditure and mobilised crowds on social media.

And, Who Is Amritpal Singh?

Amritpal Singh, hailing from Jallupur Khera village in Punjab’s Amritsar, had emerged into limelight after he became a part of the 2020 farmers’ protest against the now-repealed farm laws.

He had been an advocate of Sikh values and spoke against alcoholism and drugs addiction, often dissuading the youth from substance abuse.

According to The Quint’s ground report from Khera, locals had rendered their support to Amritpal for this very reason. “Amritpal will become a Member of Parliament (MP) and raise the issue of drugs. That will help in dealing with the drugs problem in Punjab,” a local stated in the report.

He was arrested by the Punjab police on 23 April 2023 from Rode village in Moga district after a month-long crackdown against his organisation ‘Waris Punjab De’. Rode is the native village of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, the Sikh militant who was killed by the Indian Army during Operation Blue Star in June 1984.

After his arrest, Amritpal was taken on a special flight from Bathinda to Dibrugarh, where he is imprisoned. Amritpal’s lawyer Rajdev Singh Khalsa has reportedly sought bail on Thursday, 6 June.

(This Article was published by The Quint’s,  Kupwara Times Holds no responsibility for its content)

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