Presidential poll: Parties directing how to vote will face action, says EC
National Democratic Alliance nominee Ram Nath Kovind will face the opposition’s candidate Meira Kumar in the July 17 election to the top post.india Updated: Jul 06, 2017 20:56 IST
Political parties which issue directions to their members to vote in a particular manner in presidential elections can face penal action, the Election Commission said on Thursday.
It, however, said parties are free to canvas or seek votes of the electors for any candidate or request them or appeal to them to refrain from voting.
Since there is no whip and the vote in presidential poll is through a secret ballot, voters are free to decide on whether they want to cast their vote or not.
National Democratic Alliance nominee Ram Nath Kovind will face opposition’s candidate Meira Kumar in the July 17 election to the top post.
The set of clarifications from the Commission came after it was approached by some voters who wanted to know whether a member of a political party voting in defiance of the party’s decision would attract disqualification on the ground of defection or the party would be liable to any penalty for asking their members to vote in a particular manner.
The EC said parties which issue whip or give directions can face action under section 171C of the IPC dealing with “voluntarily interferes or attempts to interfere with the free exercise of any electoral right”.
The total strength of the electoral college which votes to elect the President comprises all elected MPs and members of legislative assemblies of all states and UTs of Delhi and Puducherry.
The total comes to 10,98,903 votes with each MP carrying a vote value of 708. The vote weight of an MLA depends on the population of the state he or she represents.
A candidate needs 50% plus votes to win the poll. Halfway mark comes at 5,49,452.
The Election Commission clarified that members of the electoral college who abstain from voting or vote against party line were not liable for disqualification for defection.
Political parties cannot issue whip to their members to be compulsorily present for the voting or to vote for a certain candidate, the poll panel said and cited two Supreme Court judgements (Kuldip Nayar vs Union of India, 2006, and Pashupati Nath Sukul vs Nem Chandra Jain, 1984) to buttress its observation.
“Accordingly, in the commission’s opinion, not voting or voting as per his/her own free will in the presidential election will not come within the ambit of disqualification under the Tenth Schedule to the Constitution and electors are at liberty to vote or not to vote as per their own free will and choice,” an EC statement said.
The commission said it would like to clarify that voting for the office of President of India is not compulsory, like voting in elections to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies, where also there is no compulsion to vote.
The electoral college for presidential election comprises elected members of both Houses of Parliament and elected members of the state assemblies. Nominated members cannot vote.