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Judiciary

“How can people be compelled to vote? Madras HC asks

By Rintu Mariam Biju      23 March, 2024 05:04 PM      0 Comments
How can people be compelled to vote Madras HC asks

CHENNAI: Though voting is a duty cast upon the electorate, the Madras high Court has clarified that a person can’t be compelled to vote if they choose not to exercise such right despite availing of a paid holiday on polling day under the Representation of the People Act, 1951.

A bench of Chief Justice SV Gangapurwala and D Bharatha Chakravarthy disposed of a PIL which sought directions to every employer in Tamil Nadu to demand proof from employees of having voted on polling day, to ensure that employees had indeed used their day off from work for casting their votes.

“This is a fanciful issue and there is no law that enables the court to pass such an order,” the bench said, during the hearing. 

The plea filed by Advocate Ramkumar stated that the right to vote was a constitutional right guaranteed to every citizen who had attained a majority and otherwise, not disqualified. To guarantee that voters would not be prevented from exercising their right to vote on election day due to job obligations, Section 135B was introduced to the Representation of People Act. Every employee who was eligible to vote had to be given a holiday to cast their ballot, and their absence would not result in a pay reduction or deduction under Section 135B of the Act.

Adityan contended that nearly all Urban and Semi-Urban zones had poor polling, citing the voter participation in the preceding elections. Adityan suggested that the low polling may be attributed to a number of factors, including heat, lethargy, a dearth of strong candidates, and absentee names from the voter list. Thus, he contended that raising the poll percentage was necessary.

Adityan said that although employers are required to provide paid time off on election days, there is no system in place to verify that workers are using their right to vote. Thus, he contended that the establishment has the right to demand the required evidence to guarantee voting and prevent improper use of the legislative advantage.

“How can anyone compel a person to vote? It is their duty but they are not bound by any law to compulsorily cast their votes,” the High Court orally observed while dismissing the plea.  



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