SC notice to Centre on plea for voting rights to people stationed outside their constituencies

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Thursday sought response from the Centre and the Election Commission on a plea seeking voting rights through postal ballot for people stationed outside their constituency, including NRIs.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde issued notices to the Ministry of Law and Justice and the poll body seeking their replies on the petition.

“What kind of plea is this? Sitting in England you will vote here? If you can’t care enough to go to your constituency why should law help you,” said the bench also comprising Justices  A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.

The apex court also enquired whether Parliament and the government has the right to fix a place for voting.

Advocate Kaleeswaram Raj, appearing for the petitioner, told the court that there is a system of postal ballot papers which is limited to only a few people.

The apex court was hearing the plea filed by S Sathyan seeking voting rights for students, Non Resident Indians or NRIs and other people stationed outside their constituency at the time of elections.

The PIL has sought extension of postal ballot facility or electronically transmitted postal ballot system to all registered voters stationed outside their constituency.

“Several sections of voters including internal migrant labourers, employees, students and business professionals stationed outside the constituency, as well as NRls and overseas migrant labourers on account of their profession, occupation etc have been alienated from the electoral process for very long.

“They are deprived of the access to vote, which is in violation of the constitutional obligation of the State to protect the praxis of free and fair election,” the plea said.

The plea said that Section 60 of the Representation of People Act, 1951 that enables the respondents to make provisions to allow voting through postal ballot, is currently limited to a few categories of persons.

“The respondents are bound to exercise the power under Section 60 (c) of the 1951 Act, and to extend the benefit of voting through postal ballots to the citizens who are unable to come back to their constituencies.

Omission to include the categories of persons stationed outside their constituency, from the category of persons enjoying the right to vote through postal ballots, is arbitrary and violative of their fundamental rights,” the plea filed through advocate Kaleeswaram Raj said.

The PIL has also sought introduction of a secured remote electronic voting system and extending its benefit to all registered voters who are stationed outside their constituency.

“Issue directions to ensure conduct of free and fair election by utilising technological advancements to prevent election malpractices by providing a double database for storing the transactions in EVMs, namely a central database and a local database, which would drastically reduce the chance for manipulation of data and EVMs,” the plea said.

It has also sought evolving of an OTP based system for the purpose of fault free identification of voters without infringing their privacy right section and installation of CCTV in all the polling booths across the country so as to ensure probity in the process of voting.