Gujarat High Court on Friday has stayed a state government’s order to make voting mandatory for the upcoming civic polls in the state.
Had it not been for the HC’s intervention, Gujarat would have become the first state in India to make voting compulsory in local body elections.
Responding to a petition filed by advocate KR Koshti, the HC maintained that voting was a right and not a duty. The decision was made by acting Chief Justice Jayant Patel.
The bill, recently passed in the Gujarat assembly, would have made it mandatory to vote in local body elections, for all those eligible, barring 11 acceptable condition for not voting. According to this new legislation, the government intended to fine the violators Rs 100.
Koshti argued that converting the “right to vote” into the “duty to vote” was not under the purview of law, but was instead a constitutional matter, and the legislation, therefore, encroached on the liberties of citizens.
Gujarat was the first State to make voting compulsory in local polls after Governor O.P. Kohli sanctioned the last November the Gujarat Local Authorities Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2009, which was turned back by his predecessor Kamla Beniwal for reconsideration.
The High Court division bench of acting Chief Justice Jayant Patel and Justice NV Anjariya stayed the implementation of compulsory voting, admitting the plea filed by lawyer KR Koshti against the Act.
A Bill making voting compulsory for all the citizens in civic bodies, mooted by then Chief Minister Narendra Modi, was passed by the state Assembly in 2009 and became a law when present Governor OP Kohli signed it.
Originally it was the idea of the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in 2010 to make voting mandatory in local body election but at that time Governor turned the bill asking the administration to reconsider the provision but Modi again passed the bill in spite of majority of members of the house walked out from the house and did not vote in its favour . .
In the general elections held recently only 55.38 crore out 83.4 1 crore registered voters cast their votes which means 28 crore stayed away from polling stations.