The Modi government in Gujarat is set to re-introduce compulsory voting bill in the State Assembly in the two-day brief assembly session beginning on September 6.
The compulsory voting bill called Gujarat Local Authorities Law (Amendment) Bill 2009 to make voting mandatory in local self governing bodies was passed by the state assembly in December last year amidst opposition by the Congress.
However, the state Governor had subsequently returned the bill in April this year saying that it violates article 19 of Indian constitution guaranteeing freedom of speech and expression.
The main objections cited by the Governor were that the bill violates constitutional provision which does not allow voting to be made mandatory and no punishment can be meted out for not participating in the exercise of voting, as the constitution does not allow it.
Moreover, the Governor noted that the mandatory voting bill be separated from the 50 per cent reservation for women in the local bodies elections.
The Gujarat Local Authorities Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2009, which also seeks to raise the reservation of seats for women in local self governing bodies from 33 to 50 per cent in the line of central act, was passed by voice vote in the state assembly on December 19, 2009.
The opposition had demanded separate bills for 50 per cent reservation for women and for mandatory voting in local self governance bodies.Leader of opposition in the state assembly Shaktisinh Gohil recently demanded that the bill seeking to enhance reservation for women should be separated so that it can be passed and implemented during the forthcoming local bodies polls in the state.
Under the mandatory voting bill, if a voter fails to vote for the reasons other than prescribed in the rules, he may be declared a "defaulter voter" and would face consequences for which rules will be framed and placed before the Assembly for its approval later.
"It is observed that due to low turnout of voters to discharge their duty by exercising their right to vote, the true spirit of the will of the people is not reflected in the electoral mandate," said the statement of objects and reasons of the bill.
"Everybody will benefit by compulsory voting be it a ruling party or the opposition," Chief Minister Narendra Modi had told media after the bill was passed in the House. He described it as an attempt to strengthen the democratic process from the grassroots level in the state.