In Indian democratic history, for the first time, the Election Commission and its instrumentalities have made extra efforts to raise voting percentage and motivated people to exercise their franchisees. In the year of 2003, the Ministry of Law and Justice (Legislative Department) issued Notification No. S.O. 903(E) dated 5th August 2003 and made some amendments in Conduct of Election Rules, 1961. The amended Rules are called “Conduct of Election (Amendment) Rules, 2003”.
As per the Amended Rules, 2003, new part III-B was inserted in the original Rules of 1961. This part provides special facility to certain class of voters to use their right to vote through proxy. This facility is available only for “classified service voters” which is defined in clause (a) of Section 60 of the Representation of People Act, 1951 (herein after “the Act of 1951”). Though the aforementioned clause does not speak about certain class of persons but refers section 20(3) of the Act of 1951. The Act of 1951 says about (1) persons being members of armed forces and (2) armed police or (3) person employed under government of India in a post outside India. Section 60(a)(ii) specifies the wife of any person categorised as “classified service voters.”
Section 60 of the Act of 1951 recognises the right of certain voters to use their representatives through postal ballot. The Conduct of Election (Amendment) Rules, 2003 provides for such classified voters to have a better option to vote through proxy. In other words, these voters can appoint any person to give vote. Rule 27N (3) prescribes Form 13 F in this regard.
Even after the lapse of 63 years of the enactment of the Act of 1951, a special class of voters, which includes the persons employed in private sectors across the country and abroad are deprived from the voting right. Such unfortunate situation is a result of statutory discrimination and lack of collective representations. Most of the high tech personals employed in states different from their parliamentary constituencies, are not in a position to vote personally. Though their contribution in the development of country is very significant, but the Act of 1951 does not acknowledge their significance and realise their issues. Section 60(b) gives voting right to persons subjected to preventive detention under any law, through postal ballot, but does not provide any special provisions for persons employed in private sectors outside the constituency.
For the sake of argument, it can be said that such type of persons may apply for their names to be entered in the electoral roll, in which they resides. But this is not a reasonable option, as most of them would not want to change their permanent address and domicile. The change of parliamentary constituency will result undue hardships to them. For instance, if one person changes his domicile and applied for cancellation of voter id from where he originally belongs, he has to apply for change of his address in his passport and other official records. In private sector, the change of company or employer is very common. In such situation, in general, a person would not want to change his permanent status regarding parliamentary constituency.
It is high time and we must say right time to make amendments in the Act of 1951 and some substantial provisions must be incorporated therein to provide maximum opportunity to those employed in private sectors outside their constituencies also.
Looking at the socio-economic conditions of people in the country, three different modes of voting may be provided to them. Firstly, online voting method; if an Income Tax or Service Tax return can be filed online, an online voting mechanism could certainly be introduced. Secondly, voting through postal ballet, this method will be useful for persons who are not able to use internet. Thirdly, voting through proxy, this method will help unskilled, semi-skilled workers who have their relatives in native places and can appoint proxy to vote.
The proposed amendments will not only help those, who are working in private organised and unorganised sectors, but also serve the main purpose of the Constitution of India, which aims to provide all citizens the right to equality and fair treatment. Until and unless, such amendments take place, the target of the government regarding hundred percent voting cannot be achieved.