The Gujarat High Court on Friday stayed the implementation of a law that makes voting compulsory in the civic body elections in the state.
The ‘right to vote’ itself provides right to refrain from voting and it cannot be turned into ‘duty of voting’, the High Court said while acting on a petition challenging the Gujarat Local Authorities (Amendment) Act 2009, which makes voting mandatory in local body polls in the state.
The High Court division bench of acting Chief Justice Jayant Patel and Justice N V Anjariya stayed implementation of compulsory voting, admitting the plea filed by lawyer K R Koshti against the Act.
A Bill making voting compulsory for all the citizens in civic bodies, mooted by then Chief Minister Narendra Modi, was passed by the state Assembly in 2009 and became a law when present Governor O P Kohli signed it.
Earlier this month, the government had notified the law saying those who fail to vote will have to pay a fine of Rs 100.
Petitioner’s lawyer P S Champaneri submitted before the HC earlier today that right to vote is an expression of a citizen and whether to vote includes the right to not vote.
The right to vote cannot be termed as the duty by the state and therefore, the provision of compulsory voting Act is violative of fundamental rights given to any citizen under the Indian Constitution, Champanderi submitted.
He also argued that the state Legislatures does not have any legislative competence to enact a law regarding voting, as it comes under the purview of the Constitution and any such law can only be amended or enacted by Parliament.
The petitioner demanded in the plea to restrain the Gujarat government and the State Election Commission to implement the provisions of the Gujarat Local Authorities (Amendment) Act, 2009. The Gujarat Local Authorities (Amendment) Bill was first introduced in the state Assembly in December 2009 and passed by a majority vote when Modi was Chief Minister.