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Be flexible in facilitating voting for armed forces personnel, SC tells EC

An advocate, appearing for one of the petitioners, said that there are 23 lakh armed forces personnel (including central paramilitary forces personnel) in all.

Be flexible in facilitating voting for armed forces personnel, SC tells EC

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday asked the Election Commission to be flexible in facilitating the right to vote for armed forces personnel, including those of the central paramilitary forces, during general elections.

Declining to pass any other order as it was not necessary, the bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice Sanjiv Khanna said, "It will be open to the Election Commission to introduce flexibility to enable the defence personnel to exercise their voting rights."

Even as some lawyers sought the introduction of electronic voting, Chief Justice Gogoi said, "We have a bunch of petitions which are seeking going back to (the old practice of) ballot paper and ballot box." 

The court`s statement came as it was argued that armed forces personnel become entitled to register as voters at the place of their peace posting, only if they are living with their families for a sufficient period of time or on a tenure of three years.

The petitioner, advocate Neela Gokhale, had contended that a large number of armed forces personnel were not able to exercise their right to vote as the period of 14 days from the last date of withdrawal of nominations and the polling day was not sufficient for postal ballot papers to be dispatched and returned after exercise of franchise by these personnel.

The counsel for the Election Commission told the court that they have introduced an electronic mode of dispatching the ballot paper which can be downloaded by use of a one time password and the ballot paper, after exercising the vote, could be sent to the returning officer through postal services including the Army Postal Service.

An advocate, appearing for one of the petitioners, said that there are 23 lakh armed forces personnel (including central paramilitary forces personnel) in all but there is no data to show as to what percentage of them have desired to exercise their franchise.