Compulsory voting in national polls `not feasible`: Chawla
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Last Updated: Wednesday, January 27, 2010, 18:36
New Delhi: Chief Election Commissioner Navin Chawla on Wednesday said it was "not feasible" to have compulsory voting in an election held on a national scale but left it to Parliament to decide.

"If you ask me is it feasible (to have compulsory voting) in a election on a national scale. It is not," he told reporters here on the sidelines of the Election Commission's Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

However, he said it was for Parliament to discuss and debate in this regard and enact a law.

"I have to preface this by saying that it is for Parliament to debate, Parliament to discuss, Parliament to enact. Now, when that happens, we will see," said Chawla.

Moderating a session on 'Voter Education: New Ways and Alliances', Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi suggested that compulsory voting was undemocratic.

"Democracy and compulsion do not go hand-in-hand. Our stand is very clear, voter education is the key and not compulsion," he said.

Among the two dozen delegates from the world over, only the representative from Thailand said that his country had compulsory voting.

Quraishi said that he would surely like to know how the system worked.

Later, Chawla said the Election Commission believed in promoting voter education, adding, "Our thrust is on voter education, voter awareness, bringing in the youth from the campuses. That is our direction," he said.

Chawla noted that the country had a large section of unorganised labour and in case of a sick child one cannot expect a mother to go and vote rather than attend to her offspring.

"Now, I leave you with one thought that -- see we have such large unorganised labour. A child is sick. Is the mother to come to vote or face punitive measures if she does not," he said.

"Are we going to be collecting medical certificates? We have at the moment about 60 per cent of our population casting their vote," Chawla said.

He, however, refused to comment on the Gujarat legislature passing a law making voting compulsory in local body elections.

Chawla said the State Election Commission was an independent Constitutional authority and one must respect that position.


First Published: Wednesday, January 27, 2010, 18:36

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