Secrecy of Vote a Must in Any Election : Supreme Court
Recently the Supreme Court has said that in any election to be held in India, whether it is for the Parliament or the State Legislature, it will be mandatory to maintain the secrecy of voting.
The Supreme Court has reiterated this in its 2013 judgment in the case of ‘People’s Union for Civil Liberties’.
Key features of the latest decision:
- Under the fundamental right of the constitution, the right to privacy is linked to the fundamental right to freedom of expression, because democracy is strong and stable only by the privacy of its choice.
- Along with this, fair and free elections in a democracy are part of the basic structure of the constitution.
- The concept of ‘basic infrastructure’ or infrastructure came into existence in 1973 in the landmark judgment of Kesavananda Bharati v State of Kerala.
- Booth capturing or bogus voting must be dealt with immediately, as it ultimately affects the rule of law and democracy.
- No one in India can be allowed to undermine the right to free and fair elections.
- Once the unlawful assembly engages in a general purpose prosecution, all members of the unlawful assembly are guilty of the offense of rioting.
- Even if it is a simple act by a member of the Legislative Assembly, but once it is established as an illegal act, it is included in the definition of riots.
- The definition of ‘unlawful assembly’ has been set out in section 141 of the Indian Penal Code as per Indian law.
Decision in the People’s Union for Civil Liberties Case, 2013:
The two main points that emerged from the Supreme Court’s decision are as follows:
- The right to vote also includes the right not to vote, that is, the right to refuse.
- The right to privacy is an integral part of free and fair elections.
Right to Reject:
- This means that while casting a vote, a voter has an absolute right not to choose any candidate during the election.
- That is, this right implies the choice to remain neutral. It derives from freedom of speech and expression.
- The inclusion of the option of ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) button in the voting can increase the participation of the public in the electoral process.
Right to Privacy:
- According to Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, it is the central right of the voter to vote without retaliation, coercion or fear.
- Therefore, protecting the identity of the elector and providing confidentiality is an integral part of free and fair elections.
- Distinguishing between voting voters and non-voting votes is volition of Article 14, Article 19 (1) (a) and Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
- Article 21(3) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 25(b) of the ‘International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights’ deal with the ‘right to privacy’.
Other related decisions:
Earlier, the Supreme Court had recognized that the principle of secrecy of ballot papers is an important principle of constitutional democracy, and referred to it under Section 94 of the Representation of the People Act (RPA) 1951. Section 94 upholds the privilege of maintaining secrecy about the choice of vote of the electorate.
Source – PIB