Why the Election Commission’s strategy to name and shame voters won’t help

Source: The post is based on an article Why the Election Commission’s strategy to name and shame voters won’t help” published in The Indian Express on 20th October 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2 – Governance

Relevance: issues associated with the recent MoU done by the Election Commission of India

News:   The Election Commission of India has signed MoUs with over 1,000 corporate companies. The undertaking is to monitor electoral participation of their workforce and publish on their websites and notice boards those who do not vote.

The Chief Electoral Officer of Gujarat has also said that the employees of state public sector units and government departments who don’t vote will also be tracked.

What are the concerns associated with MoUs?

Violates Fundamental Rights: The Supreme Court (PUCL vs Union of India, 2013) also known as NOTA judgment has held that abstention from voting and negative voting are protected under the fundamental right as freedom of expression (Article 19).

It has further said that free and fair election is a basic structure of the Constitution. Therefore, an arbitrary distinction between a voter who casts and a voter who does not cast his vote is violative of Article 14.

Violates Representation of People Act, 1951 and IPC: Section 79 D of the RPA, 1951 defines “electoral right” which says the right of a person to… vote or refrain from vote at an election”. The same provision exists in the Indian Penal Code under Section 171A (b).

Further, it also raises issues of voters’ rights, and secrecy of voting, etc. as protection of elector’s identity and affording secrecy is integral to free and fair elections

What can be the course of action?

The objective of increasing the participation of the voters in the election can be achieved through systematic voter education. It has already applied by the ECI since 2010 and the programme is called SVEEP (Systematic Voters Education for Electoral Participation).

This program motivates the youth and has also seen the involvement of school and colleges including business enterprises to create awareness amongst voters.

Therefore, it is not wise to use compulsion in voter but persuasion and motivation by education is the best method.

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