Right to Vote
Authored by Neha Bisht
Keywords- Voting Right, Legal Right, Democracy, Universal Adult Franchise, Constitution.
Voting rights are very crucial for citizens of a country as they empower them to choose a suitable leader for the nation. This paper deals with the right to vote. It highlights the significance of the right to vote and also the reason as to why it was included in the constitution of India. It also clears the status of the right to vote with respect to the prisoners. It talks about the Indian and Global perspectives relating to the right to vote.
“The ballot is stronger than the bullet”
~ Abraham Lincoln
For a country to run smoothly, it becomes extremely essential that its citizens elect the right leader through the process of elections. A leader who can diligently work towards the growth of the nation and whose sole aim must be the welfare of the country and its people. Every citizen of the country does not just have a right to vote but also has a duty to vote. There are times when a leader is not performing well then, we always have a choice of voting him out in the next elections. The biggest advantage of being in a democracy is that we elect our own leaders. As a responsible citizen, merely criticizing the govt. won’t do the work unless we make sure to step outside our homes and cast our vote in every election process.
Significance of Voting
In a democracy, we say the govt is of the people, for the people, and by the people, and the only way, the people can make their voices heard is by casting their votes. It gives you a voice which you didn’t know you had.
Just like every drop of an ocean count, the same way every vote counts. If you are not satisfied with the works of any leader then by casting your vote you can actually bring about a difference.
It is like a magic wand which reminds the people in power that they can be voted out anytime by the majority. There should be a sense of fear of being voted out in the next elections instilled inside any leader whenever he abuses powers given to him.
Votes reflect what is in the minds of the majority of the people in a country. If the majority of the people want a leader who serves their desired interests then it is only possible if they vote for that particular leader in the elections.
Historical Background of Voting Rights
Dr. B.R. Ambedkar played a major role in recognizing voting rights in India. At that time when the literacy rate was really low and people were suffering from extreme poverty conditions, it was a challenge to talk about voting rights. Under the colonial regime, merely 15% of Indians were granted voting rights that too restricted. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar who was also the head of the drafting committee of the Constitution made sure that the idea of Universal Adult Franchise was included in the Constitution.
According to him, “the right of representation and also the right to hold office under the State are the two most significant rights that makeup citizenship”. He made sure that the untouchables are also benefited from the Universal Adult Franchise. Nobody should be deprived of his voting rights because of his position in society. It was believed that by introducing equal voting rights for everybody, it'll help in eradicating the social evils of the society, promote well-being and standard of life. [i]
Voting constitutionality in India
Voting is not a fundamental right but a legal right given to the citizens. The Right to Vote is a Statutory Right which is solely governed (in India) by the Act called Representation of People Act, the Act passed by the Parliament of India in accordance with the constitutional mandate contained in Article 326.
Article 324-329 of Part XV of the Constitution talks about the electoral process in the country.
Art 326 talks about the vote on the basis of adult suffrage but does not specifically mention the right to vote. Whereas Section 62 of the Representation of People Act grants citizens the right to vote.
Any person who is the citizen of India and above 18 years of age will have the right to vote unless he attracts any disqualification as an elector under the Act.
Prisoner’s Right to Vote
Section 62(5) says that a person cannot vote if he is in jail or lawful detention at the time of elections. However, this rule doesn’t apply if he is in prevention detention. In Praveen Kumar Chaudhary & Ors. v. Election Commission of India and Ors. the court reiterated the validity of Sect 62(5) of the Representation of People Act,1951, and disqualified prisoners from voting in elections. The contention by the petitioner was that classification was not valid in the eye of Law and thus violative of Article 14 and the basic structure of the Constitution. The SC referred to the judgment in the case of Anukul Chandra Pradhan v. Union of India & Ors. and said that the classification is a reasonable one and has a reasonable nexus with the object of the classification. [ii]
Article 21 of the UDHR and Article 25 of ICCPR includes the right to vote as a human right. Although India is a part of both of the conventions still it does not grant the right to vote to the prisoners. [iii]
International treaties such as International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and regional agreements such as the American Convention on Human Rights enshrine citizen’s claim to universal and equal suffrage.
The Universal Declaration of Human Declaration was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948 and its article 21 gives people the right to participate in government and enjoy adult suffrage.
Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights says that each citizen shall have the right and also the opportunity to vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by balloting, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors. Article 2 of it says that no individual will be bereft of his right and participation in elections based on their status as a member of a particular group.
Article 32 of the constitution of Peruvian says that citizens enjoying their civil capacity have the right to vote. The vote is personal, equal, free, secret, and obligatory until one is seventy years old. It is optional after this age. All acts that limit or prohibit citizens from exercising their rights are null and punishable.
Article 54 of the constitution of Suriname says that Article the State is obliged to register those with voting rights and to convoke them to participate in the elections. The registration of the voters shall serve no other purpose. Those with a right to vote are obliged to cooperate with the registration of the electorate. [iv]
The very essence of a democracy is in the freedom to choose the leaders of the nation freely and fairly. A nation’s growth depends on the leaders running it. If people will not actively take interest in the elections and choose a leader without reading the manifesto then they will end up choosing a leader who will take the nation backward. Elections give citizens a chance to rectify their mistakes and vote for somebody whom they believe in. Tainted leaders can be voted out in the subsequent elections whereas deserving leaders are often re-elected too. Voting also holds the leader accountable for the decisions he made during his tenure. It is a way to express your opinion and a medium by which you can influence the people in power. Moreover, it is your leverage against them.
Foot Notes  W.P.(C) 2336/2019  (1997) 6 SCC 1