Supreme Court dismisses plea to make voting compulsory

April 17th, 2009 - 8:30 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, April 17 (IANS) The Supreme Court Friday dismissed a lawsuit that wanted to make voting by all eligible voters compulsory in elections for various legislative bodies.
A bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice P. Sathasivam dismissed the plea and observed that a greater voter turnout could be ensured only by increasing people’s awareness.

“The people cannot be taken to polling booths by enacting laws,” it observed.

The court said if people in Kerala and other states were coming out in large numbers to exercise their franchise it was because of their awareness and not due to any legal provisions.

The bench said India was recording up to 60 percent polling in various elections and that was satisfactory.

The lawsuit demanding a law to make voting compulsory by eligible citizens had been filed by Atul Sarode from Savda district of Maharashtra.

Appearing for Sarode, his counsel Prasanna Kutty pointed out that in a large number of cases candidates getting barely 15 to 20 percent of the total votes cast get elected.

He said that despite getting elected on a minority percentage of cast votes, these candidates represent the entire constituency in the representative bodies, defeating the very concept of representative parliamentary democracy.

He contended that this anomaly of the Indian voting system, involving first past the post mode of elections, would be taken care of if voting is made compulsory for all eligible voters.

No candidate who fails to secure 51 percent votes of the total registered voters should be declared elected, Kutty argued adding that in case of no candidate securing more than 51 percent votes there should be re-election.

He said in the 1999 and 2004 Lok Sabha elections, the total polling was 59.99 percent and 58.07 percent, respectively.

Sarode’s petition also mooted the idea of e-voting, saying that the Election Commission should devise a method of casting votes through the internet.

The poll panel, which introduced electronic voting machines (EVMs) in India, should also be able to make provision for voting through internet utilising the spread of computers and IT in the country.

The petition said that e-voting would increase the number of votes. Through e-voting, it said, the voters who are out of station too would be able to exercise their franchise.

Counsel said there are 20 countries including Australia, Belgium, Cyprus, Greece, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Egypt that have compulsory voting.

He said some regional elections in Austria and Switzerland too have compulsory voting arrangements.

He argued that with India being a large country, it was in the interest of its parliamentary democracy that each and every eligible voter cast his vote.

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