BACKGROUND OF THE CASE
- In this case, the accused had allegedly formed an unlawful assembly with the intention "to snatch the voters list and cast bogus voting".
- They had also attacked some political workers during the election.
- They were convicted for the offences under Section 323 and 147 IPC.
- They were sentenced to undergo six months of simple imprisonment.
OBSERVATIONS BY THE TRIAL COURT
- The Court dismissed their appeals and observed that once the unlawful assembly is established in prosecution of the common object, i.e., in the present case, "to snatch the voters list and to cast bogus voting", each member present in the unlawful assembly is guilty of the offence of rioting.
- The mode of involvement may be different. Some may encourage by words, others by some signs while others may actually cause hurt and injury, yet all the members of the unlawful assembly would be equally guilty of the offence of rioting.
OBSERVATIONS BY THE SUPREME COURT
- The Supreme Court took into account the lenient view of the Trial Court which imposed the sentence of only six months simple imprisonment.
- The Division Bench comprising of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah, referred to the case of People’s Union for Civil Liberties, and observed that the freedom of voting constitutes a part of the Freedom of Expression and secrecy of casting vote is essential for strengthening of democracy.
- Further, it held that the essence of the electoral system must ensure freedom of voters to exercise their free choice in voting. The election works a mechanism which ultimately represents the will of the people. And that democracy and free elections form a part of the basic structure of the Constitution.
- It also observed that in the matters of direct elections to the Lok Sabha or State Legislature, maintenance of secrecy is a must and it should be insisted upon all over the world in democracies, where direct elections are involved to ensure that a voter casts his/her vote without any fear or being victimised, if his vote is disclosed.
- Therefore, any attempt for booth capturing or bogus voting, which affects the rule of law and democracy, must be dealt with iron hands. Nobody should be permitted to dilute the right to free and fair election.
Lastly, the Bench did not alter the sentence that was imposed, as the State did not file an appeal. What do you think of this case?