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Raj Kumar Makkad (Adv P & H High Court Chandigarh)     07 March 2010


THE Gujarat government has recently introduced a Bill to make voting compulsory. If passed, every voter will be legally bound to cast his vote. He will be liable to face punishment unless he can furnish valid reasons for abstention. In fact, the turnout in this country is so poor that the idea of  compulsory voting  was made some time ago. The Gujarat government has accepted the suggestion. Though Article 326 of the Constitution has granted universal adult suffrage, a large number of people abstain from voting. More often than not, it is the minority within the electorate that decides on electoral issues. In effect, democracy becomes a misnomer. If one compares the percentage of the turnout with that of the Western countries, India's performance demonstrates that democracy has failed to strike roots.

It bears recall that SP Sen Verma, former chief election commissioner, once suggested that voting should be made compulsory in order to make democracy a government of the people. He had cited the examples of some countries where penal measures are taken against those who abstain. In Australia and the Netherlands, fines are imposed.

In Chile, those who don't vote are imprisoned. Indeed, Sen Verma had suggested that abstention be made a cognisable offence. The Gujarat government's Bill recalls the proposal of the former CEC. Such a measure does not require a constitutional amendment; Article 32 empowers Parliament to enact legislation regarding the representation of the people. "Entry 72" may help Parliament to introduce such changes.


A complex issue

BUT law alone cannot determine such a complex issue.  There are related questions that ought to be seriously considered. Sundaram, Sen Verma's predecessor, was opposed to the idea for various reasons. It is important to note that voting is a right, and not a duty. Therefore, should a voter want to abstain, he cannot be forced to take part in the polls. As many as 10 fundamental duties  were inserted by the 42nd Amendment (1975) in part IV of the Constitution. But the duty to vote has not been inserted in the list. Nor has it been made legally compulsory.
Second, under Article 19(1)(a) the individual enjoys freedom of thought and expression. This is a fundamental right which is judicially enforceable by Article 32 and Article 226. So, if a voter thinks that none the candidates of his constituency can be relied upon, he can reserve the right to stay away.

Third, the law that is on the anvil in Gujarat may bring the unwilling voter to the polling booth. But if he is a reluctant participant in the polls, how can the law expect him to cast his vote judiciously? He may deliberately misuse this right in order to avoid the legal penalty.

Fourth, the low turnout is a symptom of a vulnerable democracy. Compulsory voting can, at best, be a palliative which can hardly cure the actual sickness. Instead of introducing this mandatory system, we should ascertain the actual reasons behind public apathy.

The fact of the matter is that the majority has lost its faith and interest in our democratic system. They elect their rulers, but have no control over them. Collectively, the elected representatives become the masters of the electorate. They do not serve the electorate.  Between 1967 and 1971, 10 per cent of the MLAs across the country defected from their respective parties for political gain or personal profit. As the former Governor of Haryana, BN Chakraborty, observed, a change of party was, for these persons, a trifling affair like the change of a necktie. Floor-crossing can be profitable. This has made democratic politics unstable. No wonder people are largely disinterested in the electoral process. After the 1967 election, Orissa knew no fewer than 16 ministries in as many months, a measure of the opportunistic floor-crossing.

There is another factor. As the Constitution is silent about the qualifications of the representatives, there has been a qualitative deterioration in the legislatures. The behaviour of the members is often deplorable. In the midst of the all too frequent pandemonium, there is little or no scope for serious discussion. The debates are largely  sub-standard, the attendance of members is irregular and doesn't always ensure a quorum. The Speakers often suspend the members for misbehaviour.


Vitiated process

THE electoral process is vitiated, marked by booth-capturing, intimidation, impersonation, abduction and violence. Money and bullets can influence the results.

Above all, there is little or no interaction between the people and their representatives. Most of the chosen legislators do not visit their constituencies during their term. Even criminals can contest and capture votes at gunpoint.  Therefore, a large segment of the electorate can deem participation as useless.
Given the mounting electioneering costs,  leadership has become an oligarchical affair. An able but poor person can hardly think of being a candidate. An election has become a lucrative game of the few. The electoral process has hardly changed the lot of the poor. Poverty, social oppression, political injustice and concentration of wealth have  vitiated our body politic. The majority of voters are frustrated and, therefore, indifferent.
Of course, universal adult franchise without the spread of education is the basic reason for such indifference. The Government of India Act, 1935, recognised the right to vote in such a restricted manner that only 13 per cent of the people could cast their votes. But the new Constitution has made it almost universal despite the fact that crores of voters are still deprived of educational opportunities. So, a large number fail to realise the significance of franchise and the need to take part in the polls.

A legal compulsion can never be the remedy. Instead, purification of politics along with the spread of education can achieve results. If these two requirements are duly fulfilled, there will be no reason to express concern over the low turnout in elections.



 9 Replies

Arup Kumar Gupta, Korba, Chattishgarh ((m)9893058429)     07 March 2010

right - a legal compulsion is not the appropriate remedy.

but system of negetive voting is an honest provision, where no candidate will have to be chosen.

Adinath@Avinash Patil (advocate)     08 March 2010



bhanu pratap720 (Student)     28 March 2010

if coupled with NOTA (NONE OF THE ABOVE ) option , the law will have more teeth.

Ravi Goenka (Director)     22 June 2010

I totally disagree with all above views and support Mandatory Voting. Suggest you see the new thread that I've just started and download the concept paper I've attached with the thread, and you'll see arguments both for and against Mandatory voting, as well as answers to all the above views.



Dear Mr. Ravi Goenka, the entire DRF is with you. 


Please connect with the following link;


We are with you not only orally but whenever you give a call to us we will bewith you on front.


Best wishes for your great success in this matter. 

Satya Narayana Palukuru (Advocates & Mediators.)     29 June 2010

Democratic system flourish when citizen participates voluntarily .

 In recent Hyderabad corporation elections peoples participation is only 25 % which shows

many of the elite and educated citizens of the society had not participated in the process.

nothing happens for one vote but  a person with a intention to serve u and me and the society

had given room to a unwanted element .

silence of educated is more dangerous than hues and cries of a criminal

Bhartiya No. 1 (Nationalist)     05 July 2010

People have actually lost interest, due to type of candidates/politicians.  When something new development is awaiting then only people will take interest. When a person sees none are suitable, then it better to enjoy at home.

Satya Narayana Palukuru (Advocates & Mediators.)     05 July 2010

when we do not consider voting as an importent duty

the elected representative will not consider u and me

 as part of society and proceeds in his way.

This why i am afraid some of politicians get elected three to four times

from a constiuncy with out doing any practical developemental

activity for that area


S.Sabarinadh (Student)     06 July 2010


The actual crux of the above said issue is that the people must have the interest to elect their representative to get the good from them

If you lose the faith about the credibility of the democracy you cant do the same................

If and  if there is an option for you to milch your cow and you are damn sure that it wont yield milk!!!!!!!!!!!!!then why go early in that winter morning for that work in vain!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

first of all the belief in  the system must be brought back and semi compulsory regulations must be kept that could only be done by the politicians of our nation!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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