Governance

Voters’ Rights in India

It is that time of the year when the entire country is given the opportunity to scrutinize the policy makers, put them on test and practice democracy in its true spirit. Mahatma Gandhi once said that “My Notion of Democracy is that under it, the weakest should have the same opportunity as the strongest”. The right to vote is the very tool which removes all the possible discrimination in our country.

Kuldip Nayar v Union of India’ was the landmark judgment which went on to establish the fact that the right to vote is a statutory/legal and not a fundamental right. There is a remarkable difference between fundamental rights and legal rights. Fundamental rights include legal rights but legal rights do not include fundamental rights.  Legal rights are to be derived by a person by way of certain provisions of law, by way of indenture i.e. deeds which confers a title upon a person & also by way of status, whereas fundamental rights in India are said to be the birth rights i.e. the rights than an Indian citizen is naturally entitled to with certain reasonable restrictions.

Being a citizen of India, it is very crucial to be equipped with knowledge of the rights and duties with regards to voting and elections in our country.

Who can Vote:  It is a general rule that only Indian Citizens who are above the age of 18 and whose names are registered in the electoral roll are entitled to exercise their right to vote. Electors Photo Identity Card is given by the Election Commission to each voter. It is the primary proof to the holder of the card that he is a voter to that constituency. Section 16 of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 says that all electors voting shall do so in person at the polling station.

Vote by Post: In a parliamentary or assembly constituency, special voters, service voters, voters on election duty and electors subject to preventive detention are entitled to vote by post. At an election in Council Constituency; voters on election duty electors subjected to preventive detention and electors in the whole or any specified parts, of the constituency if directed by the

Election Commission in this behalf under clause (b) of rule 68  are entitled to the special power  At an election by assembly members, electors subjected to preventive detention; and all electors if directed by the Election Commission in this behalf under clause (a) of rule 68.

Disqualification from Voting: If any person has committed an offence under 171E or section 171F of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860), or under section 125 or section 135 or clause (a) of sub-section (2) of section 136 of the People’s Representation Act then under section 11 A he is disqualified from voting owing to corrupt practices.  The same section also says that he/she may be disqualified on the orders of the President of the country. Section 62 of the People’s Representations Act establishes that no person shall be permitted to vote in more than one constituency in the same election and no person shall vote more than once in the same constituency. If that is the case then the vote of the particular person shall be considered void.

Assistance to illiterate or infirm voters – section 24 of the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961 says that if an elector is unable through illiteracy, blindness or other physical infirmity to record his vote on a postal ballot paper and sign the declaration, he shall take the ballot paper, together with declaration and the covers received by him to an officer competent to attest his signature under sub-rule (2) of rule 24 and request the officer to record his vote and sign his declaration on his behalf.

Right to Know: It is the fundamental right of any voter under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution of India to know about the candidates they are to vote for. The right includes information of the assets and liabilities as well as criminal past of the candidate.

Right not to vote: Rule 49-O is a rule in The Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961 of India, which governs elections in the country. It describes the procedure to be followed when a valid voter decides not to cast his vote, and decides to record this fact. The apparent purpose of this section is to prevent the election fraud or the misuse of votes. But that’s not true. It’s similar to a person not willing to cast a vote, only it’s recorded in this case. But to supersede this, the provision of “NONE OF THE ABOVE” has been now incorporated during voting. The ‘None Of The Above’ (NOTA) option that will be exercised for the first time in India will be printed in pink color in EVMs/ballot papers in the forthcoming Assembly polls in five states, while it will be in white in the next Parliamentary election. Voters will opt not to vote for any candidate in the fray for a particular seat without their right to maintaining secrecy over their decision being violated.

Tendered Votes: If a person representing himself to be a particular elector seeks to vote after another person has already voted as such elector, he shall, on satisfactorily answering such questions related to his identity supplied with a tender ballot paper which shall be of such design  and the particulars of which shall be in such language as the Election Commission may specify.

Rights of NRIs and Prisoners: The centre in 2010 issued a notification allowing NRIs to vote in India. The new law after that allowed an Indian citizen residing abroad to enroll in voter’s list and exercise his franchise even if he or she remained away from place of residence in India for more than six months owing to employment, education or otherwise. Till now prisoners have not received the privilege to vote in elections according to section 62(5) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.

About the Author 

488193_10151046148269135_1144721317_nShweta Rath

Shweta rath is a student of Symbiosis Law School, Pune. She enjoys reading up on various important issues and is a keen learner who wants to work on enhancing her research skills. She is a big movie buff and loves interacting with new people.

Endnotes


[1] Section 18 of Conduct of Election rules 1961(Look into section 19, 20 and 21 for more information on special voters, voters on election duty and under preventive detention)

[2] Section 49P of the People’s Representation Act 1951.

4 thoughts on “Voters’ Rights in India

  1. Hmm.. As you said, RtV is not a fundamental Right but as the PUCLvsUoI goes, the act of voting is a Fundamental Right(Art.19-1-a) . What I really wish to clarify with you is whether RtV is a constitutional Right (conferred through Art 325 and 326, which were the basis of RPI Act)

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