New Delhi: Ahead of the July 19 Presidential poll, the Election Commission has made it clear that political parties cannot issue any direction or whip to members to vote or not as it would tantamount to an offence of undue influence.
The poll body has also clarified that voting in the Presidential election is not compulsory, and that voting or not voting will not come within the ambit of disqualification under the Tenth Schedule to the Constitution (Anti-Defection Law).
Setting at rest doubts on the issue, the poll panel observed that the "political parties cannot issue any direction or whip to their members to vote in a particular manner or not to vote at the election leaving them with no choice, as that would tantamount to the offence of undue influence within the meaning of section 171C of the IPC."
The Commission said the electors are at liberty to vote or not to vote at the July 19 Presidential election as per their own free will and choice.
"In the Commission`s opinion, the voting or not voting in the Presidential poll as per the member`s own free will not come within the ambit of disqualification under the Tenth Schedule (Anti-Defection Law) to the Constitution of India," the EC said.
The EC said the political parties are free to canvas or seek votes of electors for any candidate or appealing to them to refrain from voting.
The Commission said voting by members of the electoral college is outside the House concerned and not a part of the proceeding of the House.
It has directed the Returning Officer to ensure that secrecy of votes is maintained.
The election will see a direct contest between UPA nominee Pranab Mukherjee and P A Sangma, backed by BJP and other Opposition parties.
The electoral college for the Presidential poll comprises of 4,896 electors, including 233 members of Rajya Sabha and 543 of Lok Sabha, besides 4,120 members of state assemblies, having a total of 10,98,882 votes.