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Plea filed in Delhi HC for compulsory voting [Read Petition]

By LawStreet News Network      15 March, 2023 06:58 PM      0 Comments
Plea filed in Delhi HC for compulsory voting

NEW DELHI: A plea has been filed in the Delhi High Court seeking a direction to the Centre and Election Commission of India to take steps for compulsory voting in Parliament and Assembly elections in order to enhance voter’s turnout, promote political participation, improve quality of democracy and secure the right to vote.

In a PIL, advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay said alternatively, the Court may direct the Election Commission of India to use its plenary power under Article 324 of the Constitution to increase voting percentage. Or the Court may direct the Law Commission to prepare a report on compulsory voting.

"Low voter turnout is a persistent problem in India. Compulsory voting can help to increase voter turnout, particularly among marginalised communities. It ensures that every citizen has a voice and that the government is representative of the people's wishes. When voter turnout is high, the government is more accountable to the people and is more likely to act in their best interests," it stated.

The plea further said compulsory voting promotes political participation by making voting a civic duty.

"When voting is compulsory, people are more likely to take an interest in politics and become engaged in the democratic process. This can help to overcome voter apathy, which is a significant problem in India," it added.

The plea also pointed out compulsory voting ensured that the elected representatives are chosen by a larger and more representative group of people, which increases the legitimacy of the government and enhances the quality of democracy.

It further said compulsory voting has been implemented successfully in other countries, including Australia, Belgium, and Brazil.

"These countries have seen significant increases in voter turnout and improvements in the quality of democracy. In Australia, where voting is compulsory, voter turnout is consistently high, and the government is more accountable to the people," it said.

The petitioner also cited the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which India has ratified, recognised the right to vote and the obligation of citizens to exercise it.

The United Nations has also called for the introduction of compulsory voting in countries where voter turnout is low. India has a duty to ensure that its citizens can exercise their right to vote, and compulsory voting can help to achieve this goal, it said.

The plea also cited opinions of Justice V R Krishna Iyer and Prof Upendra Baxi who supported the proposition of compulsory voting.

"The Apex Court has touched upon the issue of voter participation and the role of citizens in election process in many cases. Compulsory voting would increase voter turnout and improve the quality of democracy. Low voter turnout undermines the legitimacy of the democratic process and compulsory voting would ensure that all the citizens participate in the election process. Compulsory voting would promote political education and awareness, as citizens would be required to engage with political issues and candidates. But the Centre and ECI have not taken steps for compulsory voting, hence the Court is the only hope," it added.

The plea cited several judgements including the PUCL (2013) which stated that the right to vote is a constitutional right and a basic human right and a citizen's right to vote is a right which is not only statutory in nature but is also constitutional in character.

[Read Petition]

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