Voting Rights in India
With elections under way in many states of India, all Indian citizens who are eligible to vote are given a chance to exercise their franchise and participate in the electoral process. The Indian Constitution has granted the right to vote to all Indian citizens of sound mind above the age of 18, irrespective of an individual’s caste, religion, social or economic status. This right is universally granted to all Indians, with a few exceptions.
As a voter, you are entitled to certain rights and privileges as laid down by the Constitution, which safeguards the rights of the voter. It also lays down the conditions under which this privilege is granted to citizens. Voting is not a fundamental right, but is a legal right granted to citizens.
So what are the rights granted to voters in India? Given below are some of right and duties of voters.
Who Can Vote?
As per the Indian Constitution, all Indian citizens above the age of 18 years who have registered themselves as voters are eligible to vote. These individuals can vote in national, state, district as well as local government body elections.
No individual can be detained or prevented from voting, unless they fulfill the criteria for disqualification.
Every voter is allowed one vote only. A voter can vote at the constituency where he has registered himself only.
Eligible voters have to register themselves in the constituency where they live, upon which they will be issued photo election identity cards (also known as EPIC cards). Individuals are not permitted to participate in the electoral process if they have not registered or do not possess a voter ID card.
Disqualification from Voting Process
The Indian Constitution has laid down the following rules regarding disqualification of voters from the election process:
- Individuals who are convicted of offences committed under Section 171E (which deals with bribery) and Section 171F (which deals with personation or undue influence at an election) of the Indian Penal Code are disqualified from participating in elections.
- Those convicted of offences under Section 125 (which deals with various electoral offences), Section 135 and Section 136 of the Representation of People’s Act face disqualification from elections.
- If an individual votes in more than one constituency, his vote is disqualified.
How Can You Vote?
In India, all voters who are eligible to take part in the electoral process are required to cast their ballot (or vote) at the polling booth in person. This is done to ensure that the registered voter exercises his ballot himself and his vote is not used by an impersonator.
In special cases, voting can be done by post, which is known as postal ballot. Postal ballots are conducted for those individuals who are unable to visit a polling booth in person due to certain reasons.
Generally, postal ballot privileges are given to members of the armed forces posted across the country and overseas, to individuals who are on election duty (such as electoral officers, policemen on duty etc).
Postal ballot can also be granted to those individuals who are under preventive detention, resulting in their inability to visit a polling booth and cast their vote in person.
Below are some of the rights of voters as granted and safeguarded by the Indian Constitution.
Right to Know:
All voters have the right to know about the candidates who are contesting for the elections. This right has been granted to voters under Section 19 of the Indian Constitution. This Section empowers voters to seek information pertaining to the election manifesto of the candidates, their total financial worth as also their criminal record, if any.
Right Not to Vote (NOTA):
Voters have been granted the right not to vote, which is recorded in the system. Also known as a NOTA (None of the above) vote, the voter participates in the election but chooses not to vote for any of the candidates contesting the elections.
In this way, voters are participating in the electoral process and exercising their right to choose if they wish to vote for the candidates contesting or not.
Special Assistance to Infirm and Illiterate Voters:
As per the guidelines of the Election Code, voters who are unable to cast their votes due to physical disability or other such infirmity and can’t cast their vote through postal ballot, can take the assistance of an electoral officer, who will record their vote.
NRI and Prisoner Voting Rights:
An NRI (Non Resident Indian) was not permitted to vote until recently. However an amendment was made in 2010 which allows NRI’s to register themselves as voters and vote in elections, even if they have not been in the country for over 6 months for any reason.
Prisoners are not permitted to exercise their franchise as per the current law.
This applies to an individual who declares himself a voter and seeks to cast his vote when a vote has already been cast in his name. In such a case the individual can cast his vote if he can provide proof as to his identity. His vote will be recorded on a separate ballot paper as decided by the Election Commission.