Compulsory voting bill passed again by Gujarat Assembly
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
"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
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
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.