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

You promised 50 lakh houses, give us one: Ahmedabad migrant women's plea to Modi

Women display letters containing rakhi for PM    By Hirabhai Solanki, Bhartiben Dantani, Ramesh Shrivastav*  Poor labouring families, including seasonal or long-term migrants of nearly 15 squatter settlements -- working as construction and casual workers and petty vendors, providing cheap but critically important labour for Ahmedabad city, living under plastic sheetings -- have reminded the Gujarat and Central Governments about the promise made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi of building 50 lakh dwellings, wherein every pavement dweller and homeless would be given a decent home by the end of 2022. Holding a meeting in Ahmedabad under the aegis of the Majur Adhikaar Manch, they also referred to the appeal of the Prime Minister to poor and labouring women, seeking his support as brother by sending rakhis to protect their humble basti dwellings and provide them with decent housing, which is secure for them and their families. So far, about 300 women have posted rakhis to the Prime Ministe

Kailash Satyarthi NGO floats new centre in Delhi to 'empower' underprivileged children

By Our Representative  A voluntary organisation linked with Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi-supported NGO has floated a unique children’s resource centre at Sanjay Camp, Chankyapuri, New Delhi, in order to facilitate in imparting remedial education, recreational training and holistic development of children of around 2,500 under-privileged slum-dwelling families. Virender Singh Kadian, MLA of Delhi Cantonment, inaugurated the centre, which is called Shaheed Kalu Bal Vikas Kendra. The resource centre is in memory of Kalu Kumar, who died at an young age serving and working towards the development of under-privileged children, said an NGO source. A firebrand activist, Kalu Kumar was trafficked from Bihar to the carpet manufacturing belt of Allahabad when he was six. He was rescued by the Bachpan Bachao Andolan at the age of 10. A bright student, Kalu he covered up the lost ground very quickly and grew up to become a leader fighting for the rights of other child slaves at Bal Ashram. In

A countdown to disaster: Breach in fly-ash bunds of Nagpur's thermal power plants

Fly-ash dyke, Koradi thermal power plant  By Dhwani Shah, Deepmala Patel*  Last month the residents of several villages of Nagpur district woke up to the nightmare of being inundated with fly-ash. Located in the north of Nagpur city are Koradi and Khaparkheda thermal power stations which have their ash dykes in the vicinity. On July 10, 2022 at 3 am, the ash dyke of the Khaparkheda thermal power station broke, leading to ash contaminating the Kanhan river. Though the authorities claimed to have acted quickly and the fly ash dumping in the river was stopped, the claim stood to be misleading and false. Even today, the Kanhan river continues to be polluted with fly-ash, and the water supply to the city is affected. Not only did ash dyke of the Khaparkheda power station break, on July 16, 2022, the ash bund of the Koradi thermal power plant also broke. Fly-ash and water stored in the dyke gushed downstream to six villages -- drowning houses, water bodies and farmlands. With such large-

Golwalkar's views on tricolour, martyrs, minorities, caste as per RSS archives

By Shamsul Islam*  First time in the history of independent India, the in-charge minister of the Cultural Ministry in the current Modi government, Prahlad Singh Patel, has glorified MS Golwalkar, second supremo of the RSS and the most prominent ideologue of the RSS till date, on his birth anniversary, February 19. In a tweet he wrote : “Remembering a great thinker, scholar, and remarkable leader #MSGolwalkar on his birth anniversary. His thoughts will remain a source of inspiration & continue to guide generations.”

Multi-crore NRC updation scam? Awaited: Assam media's self-cleaning mechanism

By Nava Thakuria  If some editor-journalists are allegedly involved in a financial scam, shouldn't the people get an opportunity to identify them? As the mainstream newspapers and news channels of Assam are avoiding the issue in their coverage, how come the actual picture will come to the public domain? If the mainstream media outlets intentionally kill the news, reasons best known to the editors, should the social media users take a lead? By now a number of senior journalists (with experience in print journalism for many decades) have highlighted the issue in social media. Their message is loud and clear- identify the corrupt television journalists who grabbed a huge amount of money which is actually meant for thousands of Assamese professionals. It all began when a second first information report (FIR) was filed by the outgoing State coordinator of National Register of Citizens (NRC) against his predecessor alleging corruption and money laundering while updating the 1951 NRC in A

US rights groups claim 'continued violation' of basic freedoms in J&K since August 2019

By Our Representative  Top US-based non-profit, Human Rights Watch (HRW), headquartered in New York, and the Washington DC-based Indian diaspora group, Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), recalling the abrogation of Article 370 three years ago, have taken strong exception to "continued restrictions" on free expression, peaceful assembly, and other basic rights in Jammu and Kashmir. Claiming that after revoking the region’s special autonomous status on August 5, 2019, the government’s “repressive policies and failure to investigate and prosecute alleged security force abuses have increased insecurity among Kashmiris”, in a statement, HRW said, “The government action was accompanied by serious rights violations including arbitrary detention of hundreds of people, a total communications blackout, and severe restrictions on freedom of movement and peaceful assembly.” It added, “Since then, the authorities have released many of the detainees and restored the internet, but have

Why global recession is 'big threat' to India, despite Nirmala Sitharaman’s bravado

By Prasanna Mohanty*  It would be imprudent to assume that a global recessionary trend will bypass India. In fact, a day after Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman categorically ruled out the possibility of recession and stagflation (with high unemployment and high inflation India is technically witnessing stagflation) hitting India in her responses to the Parliament earlier in the week, Commerce Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam dropped a bomb shell. He released latest trade data showing fast deteriorating trends. The data showed, in July 2022, exports fell to five-month low of $35.2 billion and imports sequentially increased to $66 billion. The details revealed a fall in seven of top 10 export items: engineering goods, petroleum products, gems and jewellery, pharmaceuticals, readymade garments, cotton yarn and plastics. All this happened, Subrahmanyam acknowledged, due to the growing recessionary trends in developed countries and elevated commodity prices. The trade deficit (merchandise g

Bangladeshi women crossing borders: Demand to sensitise cops, BSF personnel

Counterview Desk  Bringing more instances of how the security personnel along the borders in West Bengal refuse to probe the human trafficking angle while arresting Bangladeshi women, human rights leader Kirity Roy has said, they are treated as accused in violation of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Government of India and the Government of Bangladesh on Bilateral Cooperation for Preventing of Human Trafficking, especially trafficking in Women and Children. In a letter to the chairman, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Roy, secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), and national convenor, Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI), Hooghly, said, “The victims should be immediately repatriated to their own country and the criminal charges against them must be withdrawn at the earliest”, insisting, “The matters must be handled by the police or the BSF personnel with a human approach.” Text: I am writing this complaint regarding det

A tale of horror and fraud: Profits in trillions of dollars for vaccine manufacturers?

By Aruna Rodrigues*  John Leake is a best-selling and “experienced non-fiction, true crime author”. Having just read what must be described as an extraordinary ‘telling’ of the Covid-19 saga, his book “The Courage to Face Covid-19: Preventing Hospitalization and Death While Battling the Bio-Pharmaceutical Complex”, co-authored with Peter A McCullough, MD, MPH, is the narration of true crime on a scale that could top the list in the history of ‘man’s inhumanity to man’. The book chronicles the unique role of national governments across the world and their health agencies, led by the USA and WHO, which followed an agenda that led to completely avoidable fatalities numbering several million. The question is why? The usual culprits are money and power. But to ascribe cause to these two is woefully insufficient. The sheer magnitude of the ‘dark agenda’ – coordinated and played out by governments, health agencies, the medical establishment (hospitals, doctors and chemists) and the massive a

Draft notification: MoEF&CC should 'critically protect' eco-sensitive Western Ghats

Counterview Desk  In a detailed representation to the secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), Shankar Sharma, power and climate policy analyst, commentin on the draft gazette notification of the MoEF&CC dated July 6, 2022 on the Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA) of the Western Ghats (WGs), has said that the political class, having vested interests in Karnataka, has been opposing such a move for many years. Stating that there is no “rational basis to do so”, and stating that the opponents do not even seem to have even read the recommendations of Dr Kasturi Rangan committee report or the actual draft notification itself, Sharma underscores, the only aim of the vested interests, who have “unauthorisedly occupied massive pieces of forest lands”, to continue to do on in near. “These vested interests are continuing to be ignorant of the fact that Western Ghats not only harbour rich biodiversity of critical importance to our people, but also support