Secrecy of ballot is the cornerstone of free and fair elections: SC

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    1st Jul, 2020

Context

Secrecy of ballot is the cornerstone of free and fair elections. The choice of a voter should be free and the secret ballot system in a democracy ensures it, the Supreme Court has held in a judgment.

About

  • In the democracy of India, at the time of every election, may it be President of India or local body, the method of secret ballot system is adopted.
  • As per the secret ballot system, the voter is given the ballot paper by the presiding officer of the pooling booth.
  • The voter goes behind the curtain along with the ballot paper and marks the stamp against the name of the candidate whom he likes to vote.
  • With this process, no one comes to know that to whom the voter has given his vote.

Background

  • The judgment came on an appeal against the Allahabad High Court decision setting aside the voting of a no-confidence motion in a zila panchayat in Uttar Pradesh in 2018.
  • The High Court found that some of the panchayat members had violated the rule of secrecy of ballot.
  • It relied on CCTV footage to conclude that they had either displayed the ballot papers or by their conduct revealed the manner in which they had voted.

Court’s view

  • It is the policy of law to protect the right of voters to secrecy of the ballot.
  • Even a remote or distinct possibility that a voter can be forced to disclose for whom she has voted would act as a positive constraint and a check on the freedom to exercise of franchise.
  • The principle of secrecy of ballots is an important postulate of constitutional democracy.
  • The Court referred to Section 94 of the Representation of People Act, which upholds the privilege of the voter to maintain confidentiality about her choice of vote.
  • However, a voter can also voluntarily waive the privilege of non-disclosure.
  • The privilege ends when the voter decides to waive the privilege and instead volunteers to disclose as to whom she had voted.
  • No one can prevent a voter from doing. Nor can a complaint be entertained from any, including the person who wants to keep the voter’s mouth sealed as to why she disclosed for whom she voted.

Right to Vote in India

  • In India, the right to vote is provided by the Constitution and the Representation of People’s Act, 1951, subject to certain disqualifications. 
  • Article 326 of the Constitution guarantees the right to vote to every citizen above the age of 18. 
  • Further, Section 62 of the Representation of Peoples Act (RoPA), 1951 states that every person who is in the electoral roll of that constituency will be entitled to vote. 
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