Article 326 of the Indian Constitution
In the Indian Constitution, Article 326 is embodied with the procedure of electing the members of ‘House of the People and the Legislative Assemblies’ on the basis of adult suffrage. What It means is, “The elections to the House of the People and to the Legislature of each State shall get on the idea of adult suffrage; that is to say, every person who is a citizen of India and who is not less than [eighteen years] of age on such date as may be fixed in that behalf by or under any law made by the fitting Legislature and is not otherwise disqualified under this Constitution or any law made by the appropriate Legislature on the bottom of non-residence, unsoundness of mind, crime or corrupt or illegal practice, shall be entitled to be registered as a voter at any such election.”
How the 61st Amendment of the Constitution of India has an impact on the eligibility criteria of Voting Rights.
Earlier the minimum voting age was fixed by the Government was 21 which by the 61st Amendment was ratified and amended as 18 will be the minimum age to have a voting right in India to elect members of Lok Sabha and Legislative Assemblies.
The Sixty-First Amendment is additionally referred to as The Constitution (Sixty-first Amendment) Act 1988.
Is the Right to Vote a Human Right?
The right given by the Democratic Government is to take part in the conduct of public affairs, including the right to vote and to stand for election, is based on the will of the people. The Lawful elections are thus a necessary and fundamental component of an environment that protects and promotes human rights.
The right to vote and be elected in genuine, periodic elections is intrinsically linked to a number of other human rights, the enjoyment of which is crucial to a meaningful electoral process. These prerequisite rights include the right to freedom from discrimination, the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the right to freedom of association and of peaceful assembly, and the right to freedom of movement.
This gives a right to individuals to vote. Needless to say, it is a right and not a privilege. This right is closely connected to the right to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, as it guarantees respect for the pluralism of opinion in a democratic society.
The right to vote is not absolute – It means there are certain conditions can be imposed to make the result limited and conditions can be imposed so long as they pursue a legitimate aim, are proportionate and do not hinder the free expression to the opinion of the people in choosing the legislature.
Conditions could also assail the right to vote, such as minimum age requirements and, in some circumstances, residency. But such restrictions cannot hinder the very essence of the right to vote. In particular, disenfranchisement is a very, serious matter and it will require a discernible and sufficient link between the sanction of disenfranchising someone and therefore the conduct and circumstances of the person being disenfranchised.
Can Voting be a Choice of Citizens?
Voting could also be seen as a civic right instead of a civic duty. While citizens may exercise their civil rights (free speech, right to an attorney, etc.) they are not urged to. Furthermore, compulsory voting may infringe on other rights.
Compulsory voting in other countries Numerous countries around the world make it mandatory for citizens to vote. For example, Australia mandates compulsory voting at the national level. The penalty for infringement of Voting Rights includes an explanation and a fine.
In Australia, the number of voters has turned out to be 90% or above since 1924. Several countries in South America including Brazil, Argentina, and Bolivia all have a provision for compulsory voting. Certain other countries just like The Netherlands in 1970 and Austria more recently, repealed such legal requirements after they had been in function for decades. Other democratic countries like the UK, the USA, Germany, Italy, and France have a system of voluntary voting.
In Italy, over the last few elections, it has had a voter turnout of over 80%, while the USA has a voter turnout of about 50%.
What compulsory voting would mean is, Those in favor of compulsory voting assert that a high turnout is vital for a proper democratic mandate and the functioning of democracy. They also argued about the people who are going to poll vote will take politics more seriously and start to take a more active role. Further, citizens who are staying in a democratic state have a duty to vote, which is an essential part of that democracy though they cant be compelled for the same. However, some others have argued that compulsory voting may be in violation of the fundamental rights of liberty and expression that are guaranteed to citizens in a democratic state.
In this context, it has been stated that each and every individual should be able to choose whether or not he or she wants to vote. It is unclear whether the constitutional right to vote may be interpreted to incorporate the right not to vote. If challenged, it will up to the superior courts to examine whether compulsory voting violates the Constitution.
Mr.BAchi Singh Rawat had introduced the Compulsory Voting Bill,2004 as a private member Bill in the Lok Sabha. And the bill was set to initiate a new practice that to make voting compulsory for every eligible voter to vote and provided for exemption only in certain cases, like that of illness, etc. Arguments mooted against the Bill regarding difficulties might be faced by a certain class of people includes that of the remoteness of polling booths, difficulties faced by certain classes of people like daily wage laborers, nomadic groups, disabled, pregnant women, etc. in casting their vote.
But, The Bill did not receive the support of the House and was not passed. Another Private Member Bill related to Compulsory Voting was introduced by Mr. JP Agarwal, Member of Parliament, in the year of 2009. Besides making voting mandatory, this Bill also casts the duty upon the state to ensure a large number of polling booths at convenient places, and special arrangements for senior citizens, persons with a physical disability, and pregnant women. The then Law Minister, Mr. Moily argued that if compulsory voting was introduced, Parliament would accelerate, more accurately, the will of the electorate. However, he also stated that active participation in a democratic set up must be voluntary, and not coerced.
The constitution allows adults to vote. This power is encrypted and also known under a separate law known as Representation of the People Act (India) which states under Section 62 as follows:
62. Right to vote- (1) No one who is not, and except as expressly provided by this Act, every person who is, for the time being, entered in the electoral roll of any constituency shall be entitled to vote in that constituency.
(2) No person shall vote at an election in any constituency if he is, subject to any of the disqualifications referred to in section 16 of the Representation of the People Act, 1950 (43 of 1950)
(3) No person shall vote at a General Election in more than one constituency of the same class and if a person votes in more than one such constituency, his votes in all such constituencies shall be void.
(4) No person shall at any election vote in the same constituency more than once, notwithstanding that his name may have been registered in the electoral roll for that constituency more than once, and if he does so vote, all his votes in that constituency shall be void.
(5) No person shall vote at any election if he is confined in prison whether under a sentence of imprisonment or transportation or otherwise or is in the lawful custody of the police.
In Short, Your ‘Right to vote’ is a legally recognized power of choice attributed to you as a citizen of India. You can choose not to vote, but as a citizen, you may also choose to contribute to the selection procedure of your own representatives into the Parliament by this process. It is a choice. As a part of a democracy.
“The views of the authors are personal“
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Adult Suffrage?
Adult suffrage means, which gives rights to vote to all the adult citizens, regardless of wealth, income, gender, social status ethnicity or any other restriction.
What is the Franchise?
The franchise is a right, the right of the people to vote and elect their representatives is called a franchise. Adult franchise means that the right to vote should be given to all adult citizens without the discrimination of caste, class, color, religion, or sex. Also, It demands that the right to vote should be equally available among all.