Rights of the Voter's in India

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Rights of the Voter's in India Blog Image

What’s in today’s article?

  • Why in News?
  • What is the Background of the Judgement?
  • What has the Supreme Court Ruled?
  • Rights of the Voters’ in India

Why in News?

  • The SC held that an election candidate has a right to privacy from voters and need not lay out every bit of his or her personal life and possessions, for the electorate to examine with a magnifying glass.

What is the Background of the Judgement?

  • The judgement came in a petition filed by an Arunachal Pradesh MLA (Karikho Kri) challenging a Gauhati HC decision. He won the elections as an independent candidate.
  • Last year, the HC declared his election (to the 44-Tezu Assembly Constituency) void for not declaring 3 vehicles as his assets in his affidavit filed in Form No 26 appended to the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961.
  • The vehicles in question were a Kinetic Zing Scooty, a Maruti Omni van used as an ambulance and a TVS Star City motorcycle. The scooter was sold as scrap in 2009. The other two vehicles were also sold.
  • The Gauhati HC did not examine the statements of the buyers.

What has the Supreme Court Ruled?

  • According to the apex court,
    • Voters' Right to Know is not absolute.
    • A candidate’s choice to retain his privacy on matters which were of no concern to the voters or were irrelevant to his candidature for public office,
    • Did not amount to a ‘corrupt practice’ under Section 123 of the Representation of People Act (RPA), 1951.
  • Such non-disclosure would not amount to a “defect of a substantial nature” under Section 36(4) of the RPA 1951.
  • There was no obligation for a candidate to lay his life exposed for the electorate to probe and scrutinise.
  • It is not necessary that a candidate declare every item of movable property that he or his dependent family members own, such as clothing, shoes, crockery, stationery and furniture, etc.
  • But the Court said every case would turn on its own peculiarities on what would amount to a non-disclosure of assets of a substantial nature.
    • For example, suppressing information about a collection of expensive watches from voters would be a substantial defect.
    • However, if a candidate and his family members each own a simple watch, suppression of the value of such watches may not amount to a defect at all.

Rights of the Voters’ in India:

  • The voter’s have certain rights that are bestowed on them by the Election Commission of India (ECI).
  • These rights are safeguarded by the Constitution of the country and are provided to all the citizens of the country. Such Voter rights are -
  • Right to Know:
    • The voter has the right to know about the candidates contesting the elections.
    • The voters have the right to get the details of the past records of the candidate (criminal records, if any), financial position of the candidate, their election manifesto, etc.
  • Voting rights of NRIs:
    • The NRIs are those citizens of the country that are not present at their place of residence for reasons of employment or any other reasons but are still eligible to vote in the elections of the country.
    • NRIs were not initially allowed to vote in the elections of the country. However, a subsequent amendment allowed the NRIs to vote for elections in India.
  • Voting rights of Prisoners: The constitution of India and the guidelines of the ECI do not permit a person who is imprisoned to vote in the upcoming elections of the country.
  • NOTA (Right Not to Vote):
    • None of The Above (NOTA) is another right of the voter where the voter participates in the electoral process but does not vote or choose any of the contesting candidates.
    • This right is exercised when the voter feels that none of the contesting candidates are worthy of his/her vote.
  • Tendered Voting Rights:
    • This right can be exercised by a voter when he/she realises that another person has wrongly voted on their behalf.
    • Such a person will need to provide a valid identity proof to authenticate their voting right and vote on a separate ballot paper as per ECI.

Voting rights of Disabled or Infirm Citizens: The ECI will provide assistance to such voters to cast their votes by taking their vote with the help of an Electoral Officer.

Q.1. When was None of The Above (NOTA) introduced in India?

In the PUCL vs. Union of India judgement of 2013, the Supreme Court of India directed the Election Commission of India to include NOTA in elections to the Lok Sabha and respective state legislative assemblies.

Source: Candidates have a right to privacy from voters: SC judgment