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Civil Liberties

The case of people's union for the civil liberties V. Union of India. This case brings up a fabricated case as it seems to bring a controversy on the right of freedom of expression from article 19(1)(2). The case brings up a conflict for someone to refuse with his vote . This pose a question which is , is refusal to vote a violation to article 19(1)(2). Thus, more information will be discussed in the following titles:

Case Analysis
The Indian supreme court ruled that constitution protects a right not to vote as part of the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression.The case had been brought as a challenge to government rules which required a presiding officer to take a note whenever a voter decided not to vote for any of the candidates.The people's union for civil liberties challenged the constitution of this practice.

Facts of the case
The people's union of civil liberties (PUCL),a civil rights NGO, brought a case arguing that the representation of people Act of 1951 violated the right to freedom of expression because while it recognised the right to not vote it did not adequately protect secrecy.Under the Act, whenever someone exercises the right not to vote a note is takeen by the Presiding officer.

The government argued that the Act was meant to protect those who had voted for one of the candidates and could not be extended to those who did not exercise their right to vote. The Centre for consumer Education and the Association for Democratic Reforms filed further submission requesting to be included in the case as affected parties.

Decision Overview
The court agreed with the respondent in so far as the right to vote was only a statutory right.However, the court recognised the fine distinction that has been drawn in existing case law between the statutory right to vote on the one hand.

Freedom of voting as a facet of the constitutionally protected right to freedom of expression on the other hand . The court found that the decision of a voter to not vote for any of the candidates evaluating each of them was facet of the right to freedom of expression,as protected under Article 19(1)(a) of India constitution.

The court emphasized that the secrecy of the ballot was essential; the fear of disclosure of one's vote would act as a constraint on the voters expression and not to vote.

The court considered that there may be a number of reasons why a voter decided not to vote for any of the candidates.For instance , she or he may not consider any of the candidates worthy.

Since the decision not to vote is a facet of the constitutionally protected right to freedom of expression, the only way to give meaning to this right in a democracy is to ensure an option of a 'negative vote' in the electronic voting machines.

The court emphasized that this was necessary in order to protect free and fair elections, which are a fundamental part of the basic structure of Indias constitutional democracy.

Finally the court held that an arbitrary distinction had been drawn between voters who do not vote. This violated the right equality under Article 14 of the Indian constitution.The Court concluded that Section 33B of the Representation of People Act, 1951, was unconstitutional. Firstly, it froze and stagnated the right to information by nullifying the effect of any order or judgment requiring disclosure of information.

Instead, the right to information is a dynamic right that should be allowed to grow. Secondly, the Act inadequately required disclosure of information with respect to criminal background of the candidates, and assets and liabilities of candidates and their spouse and children. However, the Court held that by not providing for disclosure of educational qualifications, it cannot be said that Article 19(1)(a) has been violated.

The Court directed the Election Commission to issue revised instructions in accordance with the law laid down in this judgment.

Written By: Tatenda Tanaka Mupandawana 2nd year Ba LLB Lovely professional University

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