City lawyer moves SC for proper system of voting rights for soldiers

City- based lawyer Neela Gokhale has filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court seeking directives for an effective mechanism for exercise of voting rights of armed forces personnel and their family members.

The petition was admitted in SC on Friday and was argued by advocate Uday Lalit. "The EC has been directed to reply within four weeks," Gokhale, wife of an Army officer said.

The writ petition, which has the Government of India (GoI) and Election Commission (EC) as respondents, has requested the court to "direct the respondents to devise and implement urgent steps to improve registration of service personnel as voters in the place of postings or their native place as per their choice" to ensure increased participation of services personnel and their families in electoral process.

Referring to the Representation of Peoples Act, 1951 and The Election Law (Amendment) Act, 2003, the petitioner has submitted that soldiers have an option to exercise their franchise by postal ballot or by proxy voting method. "Both these mechanisms have not yielded results," the petition says.

The petition said the postal ballot procedure, which involves ballots being dispatched by the Returning Officer (RO) of each constituency to the Army/ Navy/Air Force headquarters, followed by dispatch to the ship or unit through the APO and from thereafter, the vote, after being cast is sent by the same route to the RO- is practically unrealistic. The petition argues that the proxy voting procedure violates of the principle of secrecy since it makes the vote of a person transferable. "A single vote against the will of a person can alter the course of democracy," the petition says.

The petition also touches upon the use of electronic means to include the soldiers one of the largest standing armies in the world, with about 1.13.million active troops hailing from all parts of the country besides their families- in the electoral process.

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