Skip to main content

Compulsory voting: Gujarat activists at PUCL meet "undecided" on legal option against 'curb' of free expression

By Our Representative
Even as news came in that a Rs 100 fine would be imposed on defaulting voters who fail to turn up on the polling booth, the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has strongly protesting against the Gujarat government move to go ahead with compulsory voting, calling it a violation of the “rights of liberty and freedom of expression”. But, it did to make public  what concrete legal steps it proposes against it.
If an official communique issued by the PUCL is any indication, senior activists participating in a PUCL meet in Ahmedabad on the issue, in fact, kept mum on the exact legal steps they propose to take to fight against the alleged curb on “liberty and free expression” through compulsory voting.
The PUCL communiqué said, it was “unanimously" agreed to publicize pamphlets for creating awareness among the citizens even as adding, it was decided to “initiate" legal steps "if found necessary”. It regretted, “While framing rules of such new laws, views and suggestions of representatives of Voluntary Organizations should also be included or incorporated therein.”
Local body polls in municipal corporations, including that of Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Surat, where the compulsory voting law would be applied, are proposed in October 2015. Among those who participated in the meeting included Gujarat’s ex-BJP chief minister Suresh Mehta, veteran High Court advocate and human rights champion Girish Patel, PUCL general secretary Gautam Thaker, well-known activist attached with  Swaraj Samvad Manishi Jani, among others.
Mehta told the meeting that there were “many technical flaws” in the compulsory voting law, and that it “must be understood that within the liberty of voting, is also included the liberty of not voting.” Patel said, if 10 per cent of the voters do not cast their votes, it may involve penalty and punitive action against about 40 lakh of persons, “hence the law is “impracticable and will encourage corruption”. 
“If we think of its consequences then, especially the poor people will be badly hit. It seems that intention of this compulsory voting is to establish the rule or regime of Hindu majority. This matter is contrary to the spirit of democracy. Voting is the fundamental right of the citizens and not the fundamental duty”, Patel said.
Agreeing with Patel’s view, Jani said it was indeed a matter of “self-introspection as to what the intention of the government is in slaying or subtracting the rights of the citizens”, adding, “By framing such different types of Acts and creating an atmosphere of fear among the people, Gujarat has been reduced to an experimentation laboratory of Hinduism.”
Thaker said, “Large number of people of Adivasi regions of South and Central Gujarat, who migrate to different parts of Gujarat for employment and livelihood, fishermen, shepherds, salt workers, farm laborers and migrant workers will face great hardships. They will be unnecessarily harassed.”
Prahlad Avasthi of Nagrik Sangathan said, “No law can be enacted which affects conscience of the people. This is not a battle for political issue but is for constitutional issue.”
Senior economist Rohit Shukla said as of today this is the matter of elections to the local self-governing bodies. But as time passes “a question arises if there is liberty in the country, how can there be any kind of compulsion? The law does not at all appear to be a logical or rational”, he added.
Another economist Hemantkumar Shah said, “It is more important to know as to what is the intention of the government. This Act strikes at the very fundamental right of a citizen to cast his vote. The constitution has given liberty of views and to act in accordance with the voice of one’s conscience.”
Dwarikanath Rath of the Movement for Secular Democracy wondered if Gujarat was being projected as a nation within the nation. “If this is the beginning of compulsion, then what shall be the fate of other rights of the citizens in the future?”, he asked.

Comments

TRENDING

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

"Misleading" satellite images being shared on Balakot surgical strike on Jaish camp

By Dr Vinay Kate*
With every passing day more questions are being raised about the surgical strike India did in Balakot as a response to Pulwama attacks. So far the Indian media has claimed mass casulaty of 300+ terrorists of Jaish-e-Mohammad in this surgical strike, but there is hardly any report from foreign media about the same.

Extreme repression, corporate loot, cultural genocide "characterise" India's tribal belt

Counterview Desk
As Lok Sabha polls approach, there is considerable ferment in one section of the population -- India's Adivasis, forming about 8.6 per cent of India's population. Things became particularly critical following the February 14, 2019 Supreme Court order, allegedly seeking to evict lakhs of tribals from their forest lands.

Industry in India "barely growing", export growth 0%, whither moral anchors?

Counterview Desk
In a sharp critique of the Modi government, the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A), one of world renowned economist Prof Kaushik Basu, who is Professor of Economics and Carl Marks Professor of International Studies at Cornell University, has told students at the IIM-A’s 54th Annual Convocation on March 16, 2019 that they have a “special responsibility” on their shoulders, “the responsibility to reject narrow sectarianism, uphold scientific thinking, openness to new ideas, and freedom of speech.”

Congress would win just 9 of 26 Lok Sabha seats: Gujarat Assembly segment-wise analysis

By Rajiv Shah
Even as the Congress plans its first working committee meet in Gujarat on February 28 after an almost 58 year gap, there is reason to wonder what is in store for India’s grand old party in a state which has been long been a BJP bastion – in fact ever since mid-1990s. Ahead of the then assembly polls in late 2012, talking with me, a senior Gujarat Congress leader, currently Rajya Sabha MP, frankly said he saw no reason why Congress would win.

Financial inclusion? Not micro-loans; India's poor "need" investment in health, education

By Moin Qazi*
India has grown into a global powerhouse. Its economy is soaring but the picture on the ground is still quite arid. The green shoots that you see are only a patch of its landscape. Most Indians are hapless victims of inequity. India is one country where intense poverty abounds in the shadow of immense wealth.

"Pro-corporate" Supreme Court order on FRA would further marginalize Adivasis

By VS Roy David, JP Raju*
For millions of Adivasis and other traditional forest dwellers February 13, 2019 will go down in history as the day of apocalypse. This is like the proverbial Black Friday where millions of most marginalized people of India were ordered by malicious anti-people draconian Supreme Court order depriving them the life and livelihood by evicting them from their habitats.

India, Pakistan told to eliminate nuclear weapons: N-war "would kill" 2 billion

Counterview Desk
The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), a non-partisan federation of national medical organizations in 64 countries, representing tens of thousands of doctors, medical students, other health workers, and concerned citizens, claiming to share the common goal of creating a more peaceful and secure world freed from the threat of nuclear annihilation, has warned that “an unprecedented global catastrophe” awaits the globe against the backdrop of warmongering in India and Pakistan.

Modi wants Pak govt be held responsible for JeM terror strike: World doesn't agree

By Sandeep Pandey*
I went to participate in a candle light homage paying event at Dr BR Ambedkar's statue organised by about 200 Dalit students on Hazratganj main crossing in Lucknow on February 16, 2019 evening, two days after the dastardly terrorist act in Pulwana, Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), in which 44 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel was killed.

Women, business, law: India scores worst among all BRICS, several African nations

By Rajiv Shah
A new World Bank report ranks India 125th in its Women, Business and the Law (WBL) index among 187 economies it seeks to analyse across the globe. The report's main aim claims to be to "gain new insight into how women’s employment and entrepreneurship choices are affected by legal gender discrimination. On a scale of 100, India's score is 71.25, worse than the global average of 74.71.