Difficulties in making voting compulsory: CEC

Chief Election Commissioner Navin Chawla Monday said there were difficulties in making voting compulsory in the country due to the huge size of the electorate.

Updated: Dec 21, 2009, 21:34 PM IST

New Delhi: Chief Election Commissioner Navin Chawla Monday said there were difficulties in making voting compulsory in the country due to the huge size of the electorate.

Participating in a question-answer session after delivering a lecture on "Electoral Democracy in India" at the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), he said there were 750 million voters in the country and another 30 million would be added to the electorate in January 2010.

"If you were in my place, how would you enforce (compulsory voting) if 250 million people did not come to vote?" he asked of the person who wanted the Election Commission to make voting compulsory as Gujarat had done for local body elections.

Later, answering queries from media persons, Chawla said that Gujarat`s concerns state polls and "had a completely different institutional body".

He said it was for Parliament to pass any legislation on compulsory voting for the Lok Sabha and Assembly Elections and the matter was not in the domain of the Election Commission.

Chawla declined to comment when asked for his views on compulsory voting. "I am not answering that," he said.

The Gujarat Assembly Saturday adopted a bill making voting compulsory in elections to all local bodies in the state, which Chief Minister Narendra Modi termed it a "historic move to strengthen democracy".

Voting rights for under-trials

Chief Election Commissioner Navin Chawla further said under-trials should be allowed to vote, adding the Election Commission has decided to write to the government for the same.

The move comes in the wake of the EC’s decision to allow transgenders a separate `third` identity on electoral rolls.

Chawla noted that under-trials have the right to contest elections but no right to vote.

"We want to enable under-trials to vote," he said.

The CEC said he had raised the issue of voting rights of under-trials at a function where Law Minister M. Veerapa Moily was present. "The law minister was in agreement. We will write to government shortly. I am optimistic that it will come through soon," he said.

Chawla, who has authored a biography of Mother Teresa, said that the move was part of this "legacy".

The CEC said universities were institutions for lively debates and the suggestion of giving separate identity to transgenders had also came from students.

He said transgenders have been permitted to register as "Other" or "O" and the EC has revised the format of electoral rolls.

"Besides, relevant forms used by the commission wherein there is a provision of indication of sex of the elector have been suitably amended," added Chawla.

Instructions, he said, had been sent out to all electoral registration authorities in the country to immediately implement the decision.

Earlier, in his lecture on "Electoral Democracy in India", Chawla gave an overview of the electoral process terming it the "largest management exercise in the world".

IGNOU`s Pro-Vice Chancellor Pravin Sinclair said the university was ceaselessly striving to reach out to people keen to improve their knowledge. She said the university had 2.6 million students on its rolls and the annual enrolment was about 0.1 million students in 338 programmes.

The lecture was jointly organised by IGNOU and Cardinal Mar Varkey Vithayathil of the Catholic Bishops` Conference of India.