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Right to Vote: Under the Indian Constitution

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Published on: October 1, 2011

Right to Vote under article19 1(a) of the Indian constitution means right to know about the candidate to whom the laymen casting a vote. Article 19 1(a) now provides the information about the assets and liabilities of their candidates.

In Jyoti Basu v. Debi Ghosal,[1] the Court held that the Right to Vote is a fundamental right. It meant that the voters have right to know about the assets or liabilities of their candidates. So the Court held that the Right to Vote is a fundamental right.

Again the question arises that,

Right to Vote- Is it a Constitutional Right or not?

Right to vote is not a constitutional right. The Court has observed that neither it is a fundamental right nor a common law right. It is a statutory right, as it has been stated in Kuldip Nayyar v. Union of India,[2].

Right to Vote arises on the fulfillment of the conditions prescribed under the Representation of People Act 1950-

It is a statutory right as it is created by the statute or legislation (i.e., the Representation of People Act 1950). After fulfilling all the conditions when a citizen becomes entitled to caste vote, he has Fundamental Right under Article 19(1)(a) to know the antecedent of the candidates contesting for the election. The voter’s Fundamental Right to know the antecedent of a candidate is necessary for success of democracy which is part of the basic structure of the Indian Constitution.

In People’s Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India,[3] The Court has observed that the democracy based on adult franchaise is a part of the basic structure of the Constitution. The right of adult to take part in election process either as a voter or a candidate can be restricted by a valid law which does not offend the Constitutional provisions.

The Court further observed that voter’s fundamental right to know antecedents of a candidate is independent of statutory rights under the election law. A voter is first a citizen of India and apart from this statutory right, he is having Fundamental Rights conferred by the Constitution. Right to vote would be meaningless unless the citizen are well informed about the antecedents of a candidate.

The directions given by the Court in the case of Union of India v. Association for Democratic Reform,[4] have been upheld and have been held binding. The disclosure, as has been stated in the directions, is required to be made at the time of filing the nomination paper.

In Union of India v. Association for Democratic Rights,[5] the Supreme Court has rejected the contention that there is no specific Fundamental right of the voter to know antecedents of a candidate, the declaration by the Supreme Court of such Fundamental Right can be held to be derivative and therefore it is open to the Legislature to nullify it by appropriate legislation. The Court has made it clear that there is no such concept of derivative Fundamental Rights. The Fundamental Rights enshrined in the Constitution such as right to equality and freedom has no fixed contents. From time to time the Supreme Court has filled in the skeleton with soul and blood and made it vibrant. There cannot be any distinction between the Fundamental Rights mentioned in Part III of the Indian Constitution and declaration of such rights on the basis of the judgments’ rendered by the Supreme Court.

[1] AIR 1982

[2] AIR 2007 SC 3127

[3] AIR 2002 SC 2363

[4] AIR 2002 SC 2112

[5] AIR 2002 SC 2112

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