Centre For Post Graduate Legal Studies

Title:Report on making the Indian electoral process inclusive: challenges and opportunities
Authors:Murthy, Y S R
Patil, Chakravarti
Keywords:Voting Rights India
franchise restrictions
Issue Date:31-Dec-2010
Publisher:Centre for Human Right Studies, O. P. Jindal Global University
Citation:, 2010, 56pp
Abstract:This study aims to discuss the concept of representative government and the right to vote in India. Currently, unsound mind, criminality, corrupt or illegal practice and nonresidence are the legal restrictions on voting for Indian citizenry.1 This study considers both legal and practical impediments to the right to vote, in the belief that the right to vote is uneven in its current implementation. The study thus aims to emphasise inclusiveness of the electoral system, with particular focus on the ground of ‘residence,’ which has uniquely Indian implications. A major part of discussion revolves around the difference between the right to vote and an opportunity to exercise this right. To expound upon this difference, the study covers historical, comparative, constitutional, legislative and judicial aspects of the electoral process. The study establishes the relation between democracy and elections by showcasing unjust disenfranchisement in world democracies and their journey towards universal adult franchise. Owing to the limited approach of the term ‘ordinary residence’, the study criticises certain conflicting and outdated provisions that restrict Indian citizens from the opportunity to vote. The study strongly promotes legislative activism through the Representation of People (Amendment) Bill, 2006. It advocates for the voting rights of people migrating within the country who lose out on exercising this right due to absence from their constituency. The study also problematises the law preventing ‘undertrials’ from voting, in comparative experience with other jurisdictions as well as the practical impediments faced by the elderly and disabled. In light of the Prime Minister’s recent announcement on Non Resident Indians (NRIs) voting, this study examines pros and cons of extending voting rights to NRIs. The study then proceeds to canvass solutions towards the goal of an ‘inclusive electoral system.’ The concept of ‘compulsory voting’ is analysed in depth, considering the recent legislation in Gujarat making voting mandatory. Australian and Belgian models that provide for compulsory voting are studied and compared to the Indian scenario, while the conflict of choice and compulsion are discussed from the human rights perspective. Again, based on the commendable judicial initiative, the study assesses the scope of ‘negative voting’ in India and its effects on the electoral system. Focusing on maximum involvement, the study promotes ‘voting beyond boundaries’ by proposing alternative voting methods like postal voting, proxy voting, internet voting and phone voting. All these alternative methods are studied by taking examples from countries implementing such methods and the applicability is analysed in the Indian context. Pros and cons of each method are considered to understand its effectiveness, loopholes and possible remedies. The study concludes by considering the tension between a constitutional right to vote and the difficulty of implementing this right in several contexts. However, it should be remembered that the stakes are high. Difficulties in implementation have resulted in the disenfranchisement of millions of Indians.2 The study considers innovations in the electoral process from within and outside India, upon the understanding that many, if not all, democracies face similar problems. The study, thus, advocates several methods for greater enfranchisement and tries to demystify the notion that furtherance of the right to vote is logically difficult. The specific recommendations for law and policy reforms arising out of the study are mentioned in chapter X (p. 44-47).
Appears in Collections:JGU Research Publications