Idea of compulsory voting not practical, says poll panel

RSTV Bureau
New Delhi: Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi with Election Commissioner A K Joti. Photo - PTI

New Delhi: Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi with Election Commissioner A K Joti.
Photo – PTI

Even the Election Commission of India has not found the idea of compulsory voting practical. Earlier this year, the central government had rejected a similar demand in the Lok Sabha, followed by the Law Commission study, which too had decided against recommending compulsory voting.

“Issue of compulsory voting as prevalent in some countries has been a matter of discussion earlier… We found the idea not so practical. But we will like to hear,” Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi said addressing an international conference on voter awareness in New Delhi.

The subject of compulsory voting had earlier echoed in Parliament as well after a private member’s bill was moved seeking compulsory voting in February this year.

Then Law Minister DV Sadananda Gowda had said that it would not be possible for the government to introduce compulsory voting and penalise those who failed to exercise their franchise. The former minister, however, appreciated the intention of the lawmaker.

The Law Commission in its report on electoral reforms submitted in March last had also decided against recommending compulsory voting by terming it as “highly undesirable” for a variety of reasons such as being undemocratic, illegitimate, expensive, unable to improve quality political participation and awareness, and difficult to implement.

New Delhi: Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi with Election Commissioners AK Joti watch at the voting machines on display at the inaugural session of International Conference and Exhibition on Voter Education for Inclusive, Informed and Ethical Participation in New Delhi, October 19, 2016. Photo - PTI

New Delhi: Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi
with Election Commissioners AK Joti watch at the voting machines on display at the inaugural session of International Conference and Exhibition on Voter Education for Inclusive, Informed and Ethical Participation in New Delhi, October 19, 2016.
Photo – PTI

Speaking to the press after the event, the Chief Election Commission also spoke over the issue of holding simultaneous Lok Sabha and assembly elections.

Zaidi said the Commission has told a Parliamentary committee and the Law Ministry that such an exercise can be undertaken once political parties are unanimous in amending the constitution and the poll panel’s certain demands like buying new EVMs are met.

In its reply to the Law Ministry in May on the issue, the Commission had said it supported the proposal but cost involved will be to the tune of over Rs 9000 crore.

While as per electoral law, elections can be held six months prior to the end of the term of a House, the term of the House cannot be extended except during proclamation of Emergency.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said during a meeting of BJP office-bearers on March 19 that state elections coupled with local-level polls, spread across virtually every year, often “hinder” the execution of welfare measures. He was keen on simultaneous elections once in five years.

(With inputs from the PTI)