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Report No. 255

Chapter IX

Compulsory Voting

9.1. Provisions regarding voting have been enshrined in the RP Act and the Indian Constitution, and describe the exercise as a 'right', instead of a 'duty'. Thus, section 62 of the RP Act expressly talks about the "right to vote" and section 79(d) clarifies that the "electoral right" of the voter includes the right to "vote or refrain from voting at an election."

Furthermore, Article 326 of the Constitution, while specifying that elections to the Parliament and the Legislative Assemblies be conducted on the basis of adult suffrage, states that, "every person who is a citizen of India shall be entitled to be registered as a voter at any such election." The characterisation of the decision to vote as a right, instead of a duty, has received judicial support. In Lily Thomas v. Speaker, Lok Sabha, (1993) 4 SCC 234, the Supreme Court held that that "right to vote means right to exercise the right in favour of or against the motion or resolution.

Such a right implies right to remain neutral as well." In PUCL v. Union of India, (2003) 4 SCC 399, the Supreme Court stated, "The right to vote for the candidate of one's choice is of the essence of democratic polity. For instance, in PUCL v. Union of India, the Supreme Court expressly clarified that the right to vote is a "pure and simple statutory right." PUCL v. Union of India, (2013) 10 SCC 1, at para 21 (hereinafter "PUCL 2013")

9.2. It is thus clear that the decision to vote is considered an exercise of such a right, and is not a duty prescribed under Part IVA of the Constitution on Fundamental Duties. However, compulsory voting refers to the practice of making voting a dut.- by requiring citizens of a country to partake in the electoral process, whether by obliging them to vote or mark their attendance at the polling place.

It has been introduced in some parts of world, both in well established and newly emerging democracies, with a bid to increase participation in the democratic process. Recently, on 9th November 2014, Gujarat Governor Sri O.P. Kohli gave his assent to the Gujarat Local Authorities Laws Bill, 2009, thus paving the way for introduction of compulsory voting in India.



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