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Judiciary

The Paradox of Voting Rights: Crucial Component of Democracy, Yet Not a Fundamental Right - Supreme Court's Observations [Read Judgment]

By LawStreet News Network      27 July, 2023 07:02 PM      0 Comments
The Paradox of Voting Rights: Crucial Component of Democracy, Yet Not a Fundamental Right - Supreme Court's Observations

The Supreme Court said the right to vote, based on an informed choice, is a crucial component of the essence of democracy, but somewhat paradoxically, the right  has not been recognised as a fundamental right yet as it is termed as a “mere” statutory right.

A bench of Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Aravind Kumar said, “The right to vote, based on an informed choice, is a crucial component of the essence of democracy. This right is precious and was the result of a long and arduous fight for freedom, for Swaraj, where the citizen has an inalienable right to exercise her or his right to franchise”.

The top court emphasised that the elector or voter’s right to know about the full background of a candidate- evolved through court decisions- is an added dimension to the rich tapestry of constitutional jurisprudence of the country.

The bench said this finds articulation in Article 326 of the Constitution which enacts that “every person who is a citizen of India and who is not less than twenty-one years of age on such date as may be fixed and is not otherwise disqualified under this Constitution or any law made by the appropriate Legislature on the ground of non-residence, unsoundness of mind, crime or corrupt or illegal practice, shall be entitled to be registered as a voter at any such election”.

The bench further said democracy has been held to be a part of one of the essential features of the Constitution. “Yet, somewhat paradoxically, the right to vote has not been recognized as a Fundamental Right yet; it was termed as a ‘mere’ statutory right,” the bench said.

The court made these observations while considering a challenge to the Telangana High Court order, which dismissed an application seeking rejection of the election petition filed against BRS MP Bhim Rao Baswanth Rao Patil.

The election petition had been filed for non-disclosure of certain pending cases against him.

Patil had contended that the election petition did not disclose any cause of action and was liable to be rejected under Order VII Rule 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure. The apex court dismissed the appeal and affirmed the high court order.

The appellant was elected from the Zaheerabad parliamentary constituency in 2019 and an election petition was filed challenging his election under various sections of the Representation of People Act, 1951 on the ground of non-disclosure of pending cases against him.

"This court is of the opinion that if the appellant’s contentions were to be accepted, there would be a denial of a full-fledged trial, based on the acknowledgement that material facts were not suppressed,” the bench said.

The bench pointed out that whether the existence of a criminal case, where a charge has not been framed, in relation to an offence which does not possibly carry a prison sentence, or a sentence for a short spell in prison, and whether conviction in a case, where penalty was imposed, are material facts, are contested.

“This court would be pre-judging that issue because arguendo if the effect of withholding some such information is seen as insignificant, by itself, that would not negate the possibility of a conclusion based on the cumulative impact of withholding of facts and non-compliance with statutory stipulations (which is to be established in a trial). For these reasons, this court is of the opinion that the impugned judgment cannot be faulted,” the bench said.

 

[Read Judgment]



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