Theme : Constitutional Bodies,Representation Of People's Act
Paper : GS - 2
Assembly Elections are coming up in Gujarat.The Election Commission has signed MoUs with over 1,000 corporate houses undertaking to monitor electoral participation of their workforce and publish on their websites and notice boards those who do not vote
TABLE OF CONTENT
- Background of the Issue
- Importance of ECI
- Criticism over the EC’s move to track who does not vote
- How to address the issue of less participation of voters?
Context : Assembly Elections are coming up in Gujarat.The Election Commission has signed MoUs with over 1,000 corporate houses undertaking to monitor electoral participation of their workforce and publish on their websites and notice boards those who do not vote.
Background of the Issue :
- The Chief Electoral Officer of Gujarat has said that the employees of state public sector units and government departments who don’t vote will also be tracked.
- The report also mentioned that on a recent visit to Gujarat, the CEC himself had said that though the commission cannot enforce compulsory voting, it “wanted to identify workers in big industries who don’t vote despite availing the holiday”.
Importance of ECI :
- Conduction of Election: The ECI has been successfully conducting national as well as state elections since 1952.
- Electoral participation: In recent years, however, the Commission has started to play a more active role to ensure greater participation of people.
- Discipline of political parties: It had gone to the extent of disciplining the political parties with a threat of derecognizing if the parties failed in maintaining inner-party democracy.
Upholds federalism: It upholds the values enshrined in the Constitution viz, equality,
- equity, impartiality, independence; and rule of law in superintendence, direction, and control over electoral governance.
- Free and fair elections: It conducts elections with the highest standard of credibility, freeness, fairness, transparency, integrity, accountability, autonomy and professionalism.
Criticism over the EC’s move to track who does not vote :
- Unethical and against democracy: Any coercion, particularly coercion of the kind being proposed by the EC in this case betrays an authoritarian approach that is not only antithetical to democracy but is directly violative of the Constitution and the laws of the land.
- Against the freedom of Expression: The Constitution provides a fundamental right of freedom of expression. (Article 19). It is an individual's choice to cast their Right to vote or not to vote.
- Revealing Identity would be violative of Article 14: Protection of elector’s identity and affording secrecy is therefore integral to free and fair elections and an arbitrary distinction between a voter who casts and a voter who does not cast his vote is violative of Article 14. Thus, secrecy is to be maintained for both categories of persons.” the list of non-voters to be put up on a company’s notice board or website? It will clearly be contempt of court.
- Supreme Court’s judgment on NOTA and mandatory voting: The Supreme Court, in PUCL vs Union of India, 2013, (popularly known as the NOTA judgment) has held that abstention from voting and negative voting are protected as freedom of expression a fundamental right. Earlier, in April 2009, the Court had taken the same view while dismissing a plea that sought to make voting mandatory on grounds of governments not representing the majority because of low turnouts.
- No. of circumstances that one can’t vote on the day: In every election, there will be those who do not vote out of conviction or for ideological reasons. More importantly, there are millions of daily wage workers, and many homeless and ill.
How to address the issue of less participation of voters?
- Systematic voter education programme: The noble objective of enhanced voter participation can be best achieved through systematic voter education, amply demonstrated by the ECI in elections in all the states and Union territories since 2010 when a voter education division was set up. This soon evolved into its SVEEP programme. This has led to all elections ever since seeing the highest-ever turnouts.
- Through Motivation and facilitation: The EC’s consistent efforts should be towards motivation and facilitation, rather than compulsion, are the best ways to address the issue.
- The voter education programme: The voter education programme has sought to motivate the youth to participate in democracy by registering as voters, voting in every election and voting ethically, that is, without inducement. It has involved schools and colleges to take the registration facility to the doorstep by introducing voter clubs, and youth icons and placing drop boxes in the public locations and online drop boxes.
- Awareness in the corporate setup: Employers have been encouraged to create similar facilities in their offices. They are legally obliged to close their establishments on poll day, but this is seldom enforced.
1. Since when is the ECI conducting the Elections in India?
Answer : The ECI has been successfully conducting national as well as state elections since 1952.
2. How does the ECI’s move against the Right of freedom of Expression ?
Answer :The Constitution provides a fundamental right of freedom of expression. (Article 19). It is an individual's choice to cast their Right to vote or not to vote.