Opposition Congress has written to the Gujarat government-appointed committee that the state law providing for mandatory voting is unconstitutional and unclear, and it should not be enforced.
Governor O P Kohli gave assent to the Gujarat Local Authorities Laws (Amendment) Bill 2009 in November 2014. It makes it mandatory to vote in the elections to the local bodies, apart from reserving half the seats for women.
“The bill has been moved in a hurry without inviting any discourse with intellectuals, experts or social activists. This bill is violative of the right to freedom under the article 19 (1) (a) as it does not give choice to voters to abstain from voting,” Congress’s chief whip in the Assembly, Balwantsinh Rajput, said in his letter on Friday.
Article 51 (a) of the Constitution gives the right to vote, but doesn’t speak about mandatory duty, the letter said.
The BJP government earlier this month formed a committee, headed by the former state election commissioner K C Kapoor, to frame rules under the law and invited suggestions from the people.
Rajput said if a person, though physically fit, can not cast vote due to some social or other compulsion, it would be improper to impose “an illogical law” on him or her.
The committee — which is supposed to prescribe the penal action under the law — cannot declare a citizen as defaulter and bar him/her from casting a vote, contending polls or winning an election (for failing to exercise the franchise), Congress said, adding that such an action would amount to the
capital punishment in a democracy.
The law itself does not specify the punishment, so it is not clear. Further, the Gujarat citizens who are outside the state during the polls can not be forced to vote, it said.
Former Governor Kamla had refused assent to the bill twice, saying it violated the Article 21 (right to personal liberty) of the constitution.