Compulsory voting not practical in India: MoS Law and Justice S P Singh Baghel

A private member’s Bill proposing compulsory voting was withdrawn on Friday after the government made it clear that it is not practical to implement its provisions.

Janardhan Singh ‘Sigriwal’ (BJP) had introduced it as private member’s bill in 2019 in Lok Sabha and stressed that such a law will make democracy more participatory and check the use of black money.

Minister of State for Law and Justice, S P Singh Baghel, said he agreed with the sentiment of the members on compulsory voting but it was not practical to penalise people for not excercising their franchise.

The House deliberated the Bill for three years. During the discussion, many members spoke in favour and many against.

In its March 2015 report on electoral reforms, the Law Commission had opposed the idea of compulsory voting, saying it was not practical to implement.

The voter turnout in the last Lok Sabha polls was the highest ever at 66.11 per cent. It was 1.16 per cent higher than the 65.95 per cent turnout in 2014.

The Bill had proposed a provision to provide list of eligible voters who did not turn out for voting.

Speaking against the provision, the minister said making such a list public would be against the spirit of democracy and at time people collectively boycott voting in protest against their chosen representatives for not undertaking development activities.

Voting is a right not a compulsory duty, Baghel said, adding, the Law Commission was also not in this favour.

In 2004 (B S Rawat) and 2009 (J P Agarwal) too introduced such a private member Bill and later withdrawn, he said.
It is to be noted that ‘Sigriwal’ in the last 16th Lok Sabha had also introduced ‘Compulsory Voting Bill, 2014’. Law Minister Kiren Rijiju earlier this year in a written reply had said that there is no proposal to bring a law to enforce compulsory voting in the country.

In a written reply, Rijiju also said there are no plans to make voting certificate mandatory to avail government benefits and schemes and induce people to come out in large numbers to exercise their franchise.

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