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

#MeToo moment in Hyderabad Urdu varsity? Two girl students seek action against authorities

Counterview Desk
Has the #MeToo movement reached Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MAANU)? It would seem so if a recent letter by newly-appointed chancellor Firoz Bakht Ahmed to MAANU vice-chancellor Dr Aslam Parvaiz is any indication. Seeking reinstatement of two girl victims of “sexual harassment and humiliation”, the letter specifically names head of the department of the Media Centre for Journalism, suspecting, the problem could be much deeper.
Text of the letter: It is a matter of utmost perturbation for me to receive the two representations from the girls studying in the MCJ (Media Center for Journalism) regarding their sexual and subsequently, mental and social harassment at the hands of Prof Ehtesham Ahmad Khan, the HOD, MCJ.
We do not know, how many girls have been exploited by him and preferred to be silent for saving their family’s honour; however, there are two brave girls who stood to the depraved advances and misuse by Prof Ehtesham and came up with written complai…

Gujarat BJP MLAs, youth leader "incited" attack on North Indians: Cong releases video

Counterview Desk
Senior Gujarat Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil, currently in charge of Bihar and national spokesperson, All-India Congress Committee, has sent a legal notice to chief minister Vijay Rupani threatening criminal case and civil defamation suit for accusing him with "baseless statement" that he was responsible for attacks on north Indians in Gujarat.

"Ineligible" funding of Sardar Statue in Gujarat: CAG tells Central PSUs, it's not a heritage CSR activity

By Our Representative
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India, in its recent report on Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSE), has qualified public sector undertakings’ (PSUs') funding the 182-metre world’s highest Sardar Statue, currently being constructed in the Narmada river downstream of the Sardar Sarovar dam as an “ineligible” corporate social responsibility (CSR) activity.

29th "NRC-related" suicide in Assam, as Nirod Baran Das takes his life by hanging on a fan

By Our Representative
Reporting 29th case of National Register of Citizens (NRC)-driven suicide in Assam, one of India’s human rights campaign sites has said that, on October 20, tragedy struck Kharupetia town in Darrang district of Assam, when a retired school teacher and advocate Nirod Baran Das “took his life by hanging himself to a fan in his home.” The report adds, “The NRC process has so far claimed over two dozen such lives in the past four months alone.”

"Highly irregular" for PSUs to fund Sardar Statue under Corporate Social Responsibility

Counterview Desk
In a letter to I Srinivas, secretary, Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India, former secretary (economic affairs), Ministry of Finance, EAS Sarma, has raised questions on the funding of the Sardar Patel statue in South Gujarat by Central Public Sector Undertaking (CPSUs) relying on the Comptroller and Auditor General report (No 18/2018).

Post-MJ Akbar resignation: #MeToo movement and fears of backlash

By Sheshu Babu*
For the last few days, #MeToo movement has picked up momentum and many women are coming out with horrific tales of severe harassment in their past lives. They are not afraid anymore to expose famous persons including those at ministerial levels. As a senior journalist Neeraja Chowdhury opined (“An exit, a beginning”, October 18, 2018, indianexpress.com), "The #MeToo revelations are like the eruption of a volcano which was imminent, given the journey working women have covered. It was not easy to make public what they had gone through,and take on powerful men.”

Bank account frozen, raid on Amnesty office: Govt of India "treating" human rights NGOs like criminal enterprises

By Abhirr VP*
Amnesty India’s bank accounts have been frozen by the Enforcement Directorate, effectively stopping its work. Amnesty India is thus the latest target of the government’s assault on civil society in the country. The accounts of Greenpeace India were frozen earlier this month.

J&K Governor's rule: BJP's "failure" to go ahead with 44-plus strategy

By Syed Mujtaba Hussian*
Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) continues to witness cataclysm of events ever since the killing of editor-in-chief of “Rising Kashmir”, Shujaat Bukhari, followed by the BJP’s deliberated parting of ways with its coalition partner, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and imposition of Governor rule.

Murder of Tamil Nadu teenage Dalit girl: "Stoic silence" despite #MeToo movement

Counterview Desk
Brinelle D'souza, who is with the Centre for Health and Mental Health, School of Social Work, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, has prepared a strong statement to protest the brutal murder of 13-year-old Rajalakshmi. "Other than a few media reports, this gruesome killing has not caught national attention despite a very vibrant #MeToo campaign currently underway", regrets D'souza.

NTPC's "poor" track record on workers' safety, whether permanent or on contract

Counterview Desk
A recent report, “The Dark Side of NTPC: A Critical Look at the Social and Environmental Footprints of NTPC”, traces the performance of one of the four Navaratnas which also happens to be a Fortune 500 company, the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), pointing out that, while it has played, for over four decades, “pivotal role” in India’s quest for development, this development was energy intensive and has caused “a plethora of negative impacts to people, environment and sustainability over the years.”