is Central to Voting
By Rajindar Sachar
In the next sessions of Parliament, an anti-democratic legislation is
likely to be moved by the government. Unfortunately, it has the support
of all the opposition parties. My reference is to the government's move
to amend the Constitution and also the Representation of People Act, 1951,
so as to make two vital changes in our election law; to amend Article
80(4) of the Constitution and Section 3 of the 1951 Act which provide
that a person shall not be qualified to be chosen as a representative
of any state in the Council of States (Rajya Sabha) unless he/she is an
elector for a parliamentary constituency in that state and secondly that
the voting for the elections of the Council of States should be by show
of hand or open and not by secret ballot, as mandated by Section 94 of
the 1951 Act.
This change, if carried out, will only strengthen the hold of party bosses
to pick up their favourites. At present, even the most autocratic party
leader has to pay consideration to the local sentiment. But with the proposed
change, centralisation will increase and cronyism will become the rule
resulting in nominating persons whose activities or business or profession
may be limited hundreds of miles away from the state, which he/she is
supposed to represent.
Arguments that many able people are not accommodated because of the present
restriction are an insult to the large number of capable persons in each
state. This argument seems to assume that it is only within the coterie
of the top party leadership and their hangers on at Delhi that capable
people are found.
This also goes against
the principle of federalism which demands that the States must have an
effective voice in all functions at the Centre and a person in the Rajya
Sabha purportedly representing a state obviously cannot do it whose language
he/she is not able to understand. He/she may also not be familiar with
its culture and may never have interacted with the people of the state
whom he/she is supposed to be representing. What an ironic situation!
Representatives (our Lok Sabha) and the Senate (our Rajya Sabha): the
constitution provides that no person will be qualified to be Representative
or Senator who shall not, when elected, be an inhabitant of that state
for which he/she shall be chosen.
Secrecy of ballot not can be appropriately styled as a postulate of constitutional
democracy. It sub serves a very vital public interest in that an elector
or a voter should be absolutely free in the exercise of his franchise
untrammeled by any constraint, which includes constraint as to disclosure.
A, remote or distinct possibility that at some point a voter may under
a compulsion of law be forced to disclose for whom he/she has voted would
act as a positive constraint and chooses to exercise his franchise in
the manner he/she freely chooses to exercise.
The only argument given is that the party bosses have found that many
of their candidates have been defeated because in the secrecy of voting
some legislators sell their votes for money. How sad! I should have thought
that this evil, which is certainly there, would force political parties
to make an earnest effort to find ways of checking it rather than destroy
the fundamental basis of secrecy of voting and thus weaken parliamentary
democracy. This amoral attitude reminds one of the famous advice given
by cynics that "if you cannot fight thieves, join them." Of
course, no one put it better than in the piercing satire by Oscar Wilde,
namely, "the best way to resist temptation is to yield to it".
I fear that this kind of thinking may lead to the suggestion of denying
secret ballot in Assembly polling on the ground that buying of votes takes
place in some Slums and bustees.
Nowhere in the world where democracy prevails will one find a law, which
profanes the sacred principle of secrecy of voting. Parliament would be
making a laughing stock of sanctity of free and fair elections if these
amendments are passed.