Compulsory voting bill passed again by Gujarat Assembly
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Last Updated: Tuesday, March 01, 2011, 00:11
Gandhinagar: A bill seeking mandatory voting in local body polls was passed again on Monday by the Gujarat government in its original form despite Governor Kamla Beniwal questioning its constitutional validity.

The Gujarat Local Authorities Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2009, which also offers 50 per cent reservation for women, was introduced by Urban Development Minister Nitin Patel and passed by majority vote amid opposition from Congress, which termed the bill as "unconstitutional".

The bill was first introduced in the Assembly in December 2009 and passed by majority vote.

It was however, returned by the governor in April 2010 with remarks that "forcing voter to vote is against the principles of individual liberty".

Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, Shaktisinh Gohil termed the government's move as an insult of democratic system.

"Congress was in favour of 50 percent reservation for women in local self government. But, government is attaching the proposal of compulsory voting in the same bill in a very arbitrary manner", he said in the Assembly.

Congress was against compulsory voting as it is against the basic constitutional provision of freedom of individual, he added.

State Congress chief Siddharth Patel said that the bill was unconstitutional and incomplete.

"With this bill the state government wants to convert a right under the Constitution into a duty", Patel said.

The bill suggests action against those who do not vote, but does not specify the type of action to be initiated against the person, he said, adding that such ambiguity in a bill cannot be entertained.

The BJP, on the other hand, called the bill a revolutionary move.

Urban Development Minister Patel described the bill as a historical step taken by the government to strengthen democratic process by achieving cent per cent voting in local elections.

Governor Kamla had returned the bill to the government for reconsideration with her comments. "The present bill violates the freedom which a citizen is entitled to enjoy under Article 21 of the Constitution. Government should not have entered into a controversy to compel voters to act against their conscience by means of coercion", she had said in her letter asking the state government to make amendments.

She had also asked the government to separate the issue of women's reservation in local body polls from it.

Kamla had further said that the government had introduced the bill in a hurried manner "without serious debate either in the House or in public forums or academic circles" and added that it was incomplete.


First Published: Tuesday, March 01, 2011, 00:11

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