Voting not a fundamental duty, can’t be made compulsory: Centre to SC
Exercising one’s franchise is the fundamental right of every citizen but not a duty, the NDA government has told the Supreme Court, ruling out the possibility of making voting compulsory in the country.
The Centre said this on Friday in response to a 2015 petition filed by one Satyaprakash, who wanted mandatory voting to be enforced in India – as is the case in Argentina, Belgium and Brazil. He cited the example of Gujarat, the only state in the country to introduce this concept, in support of his plea.
The Union ministry of law and justice’s affidavit, which relied on the law commission’s report to counter the petitioner’s demand, stated that making voting compulsory would be undemocratic. The country’s election law provides citizens not only with the right to vote but also to refrain from voting during electoral exercises, it added.
The Election Commission had taken a similar stand in court. “Freedom of expression means not only providing voters the right to vote but also the right to not vote,” the poll body told the court.
Referring to an earlier verdict that resulted in the introduction of the NOTA (None Of The Above) button in electronic voting machines, the government’s counsel said the characterisation of voting as a right and not a duty has received judicial support as well.
The Centre rejected the petitioner’s claim that compulsory voting would improve the quality of political participation and awareness among the people. Even the law commission’s report on electoral reforms had found the proposal undesirable because it was “expensive, illegitimate and difficult to implement”, it said.
The government also questioned the top court’s decision to entertain such a plea. It called for judicial restraint in dealing with matters such as policy-framing and law-making, considering that they lie exclusively in the legislature’s domain. Low voter turnouts are not due to legislative or procedural deficiencies but inadequate social and general awareness, it added.
A bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar then asked the petitioner’s counsel – senior advocate Nidhesh Gupta and Vipul Maheswari – to justify the plea in the wake of the government’s response.