Gujarat Governor O P Kohli recently signed the controversial Gujarat Local Authorities Laws Bill, 2009, which has the provisions of compulsory voting and 50 per cent reservation for women in the institutions of local self-governance. Once the Act comes into effect, Gujarat will be the first state to have the provision of compulsory voting.
Secretary of Gujarat Assembly D M Patel said the Governor signed the Bill a few days back and it has been sent to the Legislation Department of the government.
Meanwhile, sources in the Legislation Department said the Bill had the provision that the government would issue notification as and when it felt fit to come out with various additional provisions to implement the law, like the punishment for the voter who does not go for voting.
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“These notifications will be issued by the government now in due course,” the sources said.
The Bill encompasses municipal corporations, municipalities and the district, taluka and village panchayats of Gujarat. Elections to six municipal corporations, 31 district panchayats, 231 taluka panchayats and 53 nagarpalikas in Gujarat are due in October next year.
The Bill, which was passed twice by the Gujarat government led by the then chief minister Narendra Modi, had faced stiff resistance from former governor Kamla Beniwal on the ground that forcing voters to compulsorily vote violates Article 21 of the Constitution.
The Bill provides that a person, who does not vote in the local body polls, will be liable for penal action and punishment. The Bill was first introduced in the Assembly in December 2009 and passed by a majority vote.
It was, however, returned by Beniwal in April 2010 with remarks that “forcing voter to vote is against the principles of individual liberty”. Beniwal had returned the Bill to the government for reconsideration with her comments.
Beniwal had also asked the government to separate issue of women’s reservation in local body polls from the compulsory voting one.
However, ignoring Beniwal’s suggestions, the then Modi government had once again passed the Bill on December 28, 2011 by a majority vote in the Assembly and sent it to Beniwal. The Bill was also made a part of the poll agenda by the BJP during the Assembly and Lok Sabha polls.