受刑者の選挙権 「制限は違憲」には疑問が多い

The Yomiuri Shimbun October 14, 2013
Is denying prison inmates the right to vote really unconstitutional?
受刑者の選挙権 「制限は違憲」には疑問が多い(10月13日付・読売社説)

Will the public agree to recognize the right of prisoners, who committed crimes and are serving time, to vote in a public election?

The Osaka High Court recently judged that Article 11 of the Public Offices Election Law, which restricts the right to vote for prisoners across the board, violates the Constitution, which guarantees equal voting rights for every adult. The ruling was finalized, but we cannot completely agree with the result.

According to the intent and purpose of the Constitution, restrictions on suffrage cannot be permitted without unavoidable reasons except for people who violated the election law, the high court said.

“Just being a prisoner does not necessarily mean a person grossly lacks a law-abiding spirit,” the court said in its ruling. “It is not certain that there are unavoidable reasons” for stripping inmates of their voting rights.

Of course, the right to vote is an important right held by citizens of Japan.

However, restrictions on inmates’ voting rights tend to be considered a legal repercussion resulting from a criminal punishment because Japan has adopted a penalty system that confines inmates in prisons and deprives them of their freedom to protect society.

Even the high court recognized that the concept on which its latest ruling is based has not yet become a prevailing theory among legal scholars.

The Supreme Court judged in 2005 that restrictions the election law places on suffrage for Japanese living overseas are unconstitutional. In March this year, the Tokyo District Court ruled that a provision restricting voting rights for mentally handicapped and other adults under guardianship is unconstitutional.

Questionable judgment

The high court’s latest ruling adheres to the Supreme Court ruling in 2005. However, we think it is unreasonable to consider voting rights of prisoners serving a punishment under the same framework as voting rights of Japanese expats.

Meanwhile, the high court said it was unclear whether the election law’s provision was unconstitutional when the law was implemented in 1950.

However, the ruling did not clarify what has made the provision apparently unconstitutional now. We can only say that the ruling lacks persuasiveness.

The high court dismissed the plaintiff’s appeal and consequently the state won the case, so the state could not appeal to a higher court. But we think this raises more questions.

The plaintiff lost the case because the high court said his demand for a legal status that enables him to vote is unlawful because he has finished serving his sentence. If his demand is unlawful, we wonder if the court really needed to make a constitutional judgment at all.

Consequently, the court’s ruling will have wings. The plaintiff’s side intends to accept the ruling but demand the election law be revised. The government should handle this matter very carefully.

We believe that important judgments on the Constitution should in principle be left to the Supreme Court because its rulings have binding power as judicial precedents.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 13, 2013)
(2013年10月13日01時34分 読売新聞)


srachai について

early retired civil engineer migrated from Tokyo to Thailand
カテゴリー: 英字新聞 パーマリンク



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