A suggestion for allowing defence personnel to cast their votes at the constituency of their posting has found little favour from the union government, which feels it is not feasible because of strategic factors and other complexities. However, the government is yet to take the final call on the ticklish issue which is to come up in the Supreme Court on Monday.
"Allowing servicemen to cast their vote at the place of their current posting also involves the issue of security. If they exercise their voting right at the place of their posting, it could give out details of their deployment," a source said while explaining the hesitation. He claimed that granting such a right could also mean that in a forward area where soldiers outnumber local residents, the armed forces would be the deciding factor over locals.
"As it is, their right to vote is protected. Defence personnel can take leave and cast their vote at the place where they are registered as voters. They can also use postal ballot. They are the only ones allowed 'proxy voting' by which they can authorise their next of kin to vote on their behalf," said the source.
But the government agrees that there is a need to streamline the system of postal ballot as servicemen have often complained that they fail to get the ballot on time, denying them the opportunity to exercise their right. The issue has been discussed at the meetings of committee of secretaries chaired by the cabinet secretary.
The Punjab and Haryana high court has already dismissed a plea seeking right for defence personnel to vote in the constituency of their current posting. The Supreme Court had last month issued notice to the Centre and the Election Commission on an appeal.
The petition filed by Rajeev Chandrasekhar said it concerns "not only the armed forces personnel but also their families who are posted outside their hometowns and are currently unable to cast their votes, thereby being deprived of their right to participate in the election process of the country".