“Right to Vote Is a Basic Human Right”: PIL before Delhi HC Seeks Compulsory Voting in Parliament and Assembly Elections

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The plea stated that compulsory voting will enhance voter turnout, promote political participation, improve the quality of democracy and secure the Right to Vote.

Advocate and BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay on Wednesday moved the Delhi High Court seeking direction to the Centre and Election Commission to take certain steps for compulsory voting.

Through a Public Interest Litigation, he has also sought direction to the Law Commission to prepare a report on compulsory voting within three months.

His plea stated that low voter turnout is a continuing and long-lasting problem that India is facing and compulsory voting can help to increase voter turnout among marginalized communities. When voter turnout is high, the government is more accountable to the people, he stated. 

“Compulsory voting can help to increase voter turnout, particularly among marginalized communities. It ensures that every citizen has a voice and that the government is representative of the people's wishes. When voter turnout is high, the government is more accountable to the people and is more likely to act in their best interests,” his plea read. 

The plea also stated that compulsory voting will promote political participation by making voting a civic duty, which can help to restore and maintain faith in the democratic process. "This will encourage people to become more involved in politic," the plea read.

The plea further stated that compulsory voting has been implemented in countries like Australia, Belgium, and Brazil and these countries have seen a significant increase in voter turnout and improvements in the quality of democracy.

In India, this will ensure that the elected representatives are chosen by a larger and more representative group of people which will increase the legitimacy of the government and improves the quality of democracy, the plea stated.

Furthermore, the plea highlighted:

“The Supreme Court and High Court have previously directed the Election Commission to exercise its powers under Article 324 in relation to superintendence, direction, and control of the conduct of elections to Parliament and State legislatures in order to redress violations of fundamental rights and protect the purity of the electoral process, and there is a good reason why the Court must take steps for simultaneous election.”

While laying emphasis on the constitutional validity of compulsory voting, the plea stated that it can be implemented as a reasonable restriction in the interest of ensuring the smooth functioning of democracy.

The plea also mentioned some landmark judgments of the Apex Court. While referring to the case of PUCL [(2003)4 SCC 399], the plea stated that the “right to vote in a free and fair election is a basic human right. It is the essence of democracy. It has been described as a basic feature of the Constitution.”

Reference have also been made to the case of Kuldip Nayar [(2006)7 SCC1]. The plea highlighted the statement of the Apex Court that prisoners, who are eligible to vote, cannot be denied their right to vote merely on the ground of their incarceration.

Lastly, it has been prayed that the court may direct the Election Commission of India to use its plenary constitutional power to increase voters' turnout and direct the Law Commission of India to examine the Apex Court judgment on the Right to Vote.

Case Title: Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay vs. Union of India and Ors.

Statute- Article 226 of the Indian Constitution.