- Recently, the Supreme Court of India held that in any election, be it to Parliament or State legislature, the maintenance of secrecy of voting is “a must”.
- It reiterated its 2013 judgement in the People’s Union for Civil Liberties case.
- Part of Fundamental Right: The secrecy is a part of the fundamental right of freedom of expression.
- The confidentiality of choice strengthened democracy.
- Part of Basic Structure: Democracy and free elections were a part of the Basic Structure of the Constitution.
- The concept of ‘basic structure’ came into existence in the landmark judgment in Kesavananda Bharati vs State of Kerala case (1973).
- On Booth Capturing: Booth capturing and/or bogus voting should be dealt with iron hands, because it ultimately affects the rule of law and democracy.
- Nobody can be permitted to dilute the right to free and fair election.
- On Unlawful Assembly: Once the unlawful assembly is established in prosecution of the common object, each member of the unlawful assembly is guilty of the offence of rioting.
- The use of the force, even though it be the slightest possible character by any one member of the assembly, once established as unlawful constitutes rioting.
- It is not necessary that force or violence must be by all but the liability accrues to all the members of the unlawful assembly.
- The definition of ‘unlawful assembly’, according to Indian law, is laid down in Section 141 of the Indian Penal Code.
The two main key components that came out of the Supreme Court judgment are:
- Right to vote also includes a right not to vote i.e right to reject.
- Right to secrecy is an integral part of a free and fair election.
- It implies that a voter while voting has every right not to opt for any of the candidates during an election.
- Such a right implies a choice to remain neutral. It has its genesis in freedom of speech and expression.
- Introducing a ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) button can increase the public participation in an electoral process.
Right to Secrecy:
- It is a central right of an elector to cast his vote without fear of reprisal, duress or coercion as per Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
- Protection of the elector’s identity and affording secrecy is therefore integral to free and fair elections.
- An arbitrary distinction between the voter who casts his vote and the voter who does not cast his vote is violative of Article 14, Article 19(1)(a) and Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
- Article 21(3) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 25(b) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights deals with the “Right to secrecy”.
SOURCE: THE HINDU,THE ECONOMIC TIMES,MNT