Voting cannot be made compulsory since as it would violate the constitutional right of freedom of speech and expression, the Election Commission has informed the Supreme Court.
The poll body has filed an affidavit spelling out is stand in response to a public interest litigation (PIL) that wants a direction to the commission to frame new guidelines making voting mandatory. The commission said right to vote was not a fundamental right but statutory.
“The decision taken by the voter after verifying the credentials of the candidate either to vote or not to vote is his right of expression under the constitution. Freedom of expression means not only right to vote but would also include the right not to vote,” read the affidavit, prepared by advocate Amit Sharma.
The petitioner in SC has said voting should be compulsory as in other countries such as Argentina, Australia, Belgium and Brazil.
The petitioner has referred to a local law in Gujarat - the first State to make voting mandatory at the municipal corporation, municipality and Panchayat levels. The Act empowers an election officer to serve a voter notice if he or she doesn’t vote. In case an elector fails to explain within a month, he or she can be declared a “defaulter voter.”
In contrast to the Gujarat law, the poll body has told SC that there is no constitutional duty or obligation upon the citizens to cast vote. “The law provides the citizen of India, the freedom to vote or to refrain from voting at an election on the ground of the same being the fundamental right of expression guaranteed to every citizen of India,” the affidavit read.
It referred an earlier SC verdict in which the court directed the poll body to introduce a NOTA button in the voting machines so that the electorate has a choice to reject all the candidates in the fray.
A bench headed by Chief Justice HL Dattu Friday directed the petitioner to respond to the EC’s submission. It also gave time to the NDA government to file its version on the issue.