secrecy-of-ballot-is-the-cornerstone-of-free-and-fair-elections

Context: The Supreme Court has held in a judgment that secrecy of ballot is the cornerstone of free and fair elections. The choice of a voter should be free and the secret ballot system in a democracy ensures it.

More about the judgement:

  • It is the policy of law to protect the right of voters to secrecy of the ballot.
  • Even a remote or distinct possibility that a voter can be forced to disclose for whom she has voted would act as a positive constraint and a check on the freedom to exercise franchise.
  • Judge who wrote the judgment referred to Section 94 of the Representation of People Act, which upholds the privilege of the voter to maintain confidentiality about her choice of vote.
  • The privilege ends when the voter decides to waive the privilege and instead volunteers to disclose as to whom she had voted.
  • The apex court referred to Section 28(8) of the Uttar Pradesh Kshettra Panchayat and Zila Panchayat Adhiniyam, 1961. This provision states that a motion of no confidence shall be put to vote in the prescribed manner by secret ballot.

Background: 

  • The judgment came on an appeal against the Allahabad High Court decision setting aside the voting of a no-confidence motion in a zila panchayat in Uttar Pradesh in 2018.
  • The High Court found that some of the panchayat members had violated the rule of secrecy of ballot. It relied on CCTV footage to conclude that they had either displayed the ballot papers or by their conduct revealed the manner in which they had voted.
  • The apex court ordered a re-vote of the motion within the next two months. 

Representation of People’s Act

RPA, 1950: This Act makes provisions for

  • Seat allocation in the Lok Sabha and the Legislative Assemblies through direct elections. 
  • The voters’ qualifications for the elections. 
  • The delimitation of constituencies for both Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. The extent of the constituencies would be determined by the Delimitation Commission. 
  • Preparation of the electoral roll.

RPA, 1951: All matters relating to the actual conduct of elections are governed by the provisions of the Representation of the People Act 1951.

  • It also talks about corruption and other illegal activities related to elections. 
  • The Act makes provisions for dispute redressal in matters connected to elections. 
  • It also talks about the qualification as well as grounds for the disqualification of MPs and MLAs.

Representation of the People (Amendment) Act, 1966 

  • This Amendment abolished election tribunals. Election petitions were now transferred to High Courts.
  • But disputes in connection with the presidential and vice-presidential elections are heard directly by the Supreme Court of India. 

Representation of the People (Amendment) Act, 1988 

  • This Amendment made provisions for the adjournment or countermanding of polling because of booth capturing and electronic voting machines (EVMs).

Representation of the People (Amendment) Act, 2002 

  • The 2002 amendment inserted Section 33A into the Act which provides for the right to information for people. After this, voters have the right to know the antecedents of the candidates. 
  • Contesting candidates are required to furnish information about prior conviction of offences or whether they are accused of any offence while filing their nominations. 
  • The amendment also included provisions for the declaration of assets and liabilities by the candidates.

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/secrecy-of-ballot-is-the-cornerstone-of-free-and-fair-elections-says-supreme-court/article31883015.ece