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Delhi HC refuses to hear PIL seeking to make voting compulsory, Court says – we cannot force anyone to vote

The Delhi High Court on Friday refused to entertain a PIL seeking direction to the Center and the Election Commission to make voting compulsory in Parliament and Assembly elections. The court said that we cannot force anyone to vote. The court said that no person can be forced to vote. We are not law makers. Don’t make laws. So we cannot pass such directions. Is there any provision in the constitution that makes voting compulsory? A bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramaniam Prasad noted that the petitioner, advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, was warned by the court that it would dismiss the plea with cost, following which he withdrew it.

‘Compulsory voting will help in increasing voting percentage’

Upadhyay had filed a PIL, stating that compulsory voting would ensure that every citizen has a voice, improve the quality of democracy, and protect the right to vote. The petition states that low voter turnout is a constant problem and compulsory voting can help increase voter turnout, especially among disadvantaged communities.

‘Will you get them caught by the police and send them for voting?’

During the hearing, the petitioner cited the example of drivers and said that many of them are not able to vote as they have to work in other cities. In response, the bench said that it is their right and their choice. We cannot compel someone present in Chennai to come back to his hometown in Srinagar and vote there. You want us to instruct the police to arrest him and send him to Srinagar.” The court also refused to direct the Election Commission to treat the petition as a representation.

‘People’s interest in politics will increase’

The petition said, “When turnout is high, the government is more accountable to the people and more likely to act in their best interest. Political participation can be promoted by making compulsory voting a civic duty, and when voting is compulsory, people are more likely to take an interest in politics and engage in the democratic process. This can help address voter apathy, which is a significant problem in India. Many people are disillusioned with the political system and feel that their votes do not count. The petition states that compulsory voting can help restore faith in the democratic process and encourage people to get involved in politics.

‘Government’s legitimacy will increase’

It states that compulsory voting ensures that elected representatives are chosen by a larger and more representative group of people, thereby increasing the legitimacy of the government. The petitioner said that compulsory voting has been successfully implemented in countries like Australia, Belgium and Brazil and they have seen a significant increase in voting percentage. As an alternative prayer, the petition urged the court to direct the Election Commission to exercise its full constitutional power to increase voter turnout in elections to parliament and state assemblies. It also sought a direction to the Law Commission to prepare a report on compulsory voting.