'Arbitrary, mala fide and unconstitutional': TMC writes to EC over amended poll rules
A few days ago, the Election Commission of India put forth a notification amending the Conduct of Elections Rules. As per the new amendment, keeping the COVID-19 outbreak in mind, people above 65 years, as well as those who have been quarantined due to the virus, can now vote via postal ballot.
Earlier, in October 2019, the law ministry had amended the Rules to give this option to people above the age of 80, and those with disabilities for Lok Sabha and Assembly elections.
But while this may be a necessary precaution if the virus outbreak does not subside in the near future, the All India Trinamool Congress has urged the EC to withdraw the Amendment. Calling it “unconstitutional”, TMC MP Subrata Bakshi who is also the General Secretary of the party said that the party had deep reservations about the same.
“We consider this move of wanting those above 65 years of age to vote through postal ballots as arbitrary, mala fide, unconstitutional, and ex facie a violation of Right to Secrecy of Vote, Right to Free and Fair Elections, and Right to Health of the Citizens of the India,” Bakshi wrote in a letter to the Chief Election Commissioner.
He pointed out that many of the countries leaders, including Prime Minister Modi and several Chief Ministers were above the age of 65. He added that the decision to treat people of that age bracket as “outcasts” was “arbitrary and without cogent reasons”.
“According to this latest amendment, they will surely find themselves in an absurd situation where they can campaign but not be allowed to vote at polling booths. It is rather ridiculous to suggest that a candidate over 65 years of age participates in an election, carries out campaigns, and then casts vote through postal ballot,” he noted.
Additionally, the secrecy that voters are entitled to will be lost due to this amendment, Bakshi contends. Not only the comparatively higher chances of disclosure, he contends that “the postal ballot system is highly susceptible to coercive influence of many nefarious elements, ruling party agents, government officials, and thus leading to mass rigging of elections”.
“Further, the said amendment is also permanent in nature rather than a temporary arrangement to deal with the ongoing pandemic,” he added.
It is also an additional burden on resources, Bakshi opines. “This amendment also seeks the officers to be physically present and attend each of the electors above 65 years while they cast their vote. This would substantially increase the expenses incurred by the public exchequer,” he wrote.
The next major polls will be the Bihar Assembly elections that are slated to take place in October or November. Virtual campaigns and rallies have already been started some time ago for the same.
(With inputs from Prema Rajaram)