The Supreme Court stated in a recent ruling that it is paradoxical that the right to vote is not a fundamental right, given that democracy is considered one of the Constitution’s fundamental features. The Court observed that the right to vote has been called a “mere” statutory right.
“Democracy has been held to be a part of one of the essential features of the Constitution. Yet, somewhat paradoxically, the right to vote has not been recognized as a Fundamental Right yet, it was termed as a “mere” statutory right“, observed a bench comprising Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Aravind Kumar.
This observation was made by the bench in Bhim Rao Baswanth Rao Patil v. K. Madan Mohan Rao & Others, an appeal contesting the Telangana High Court’s refusal to reject an election petition at the threshold.
In the decision, the Court also made significant observations regarding the right of a voter to know a voter’s complete background (a detailed report on this aspect is available here). “The elector or voter’s right to know about the full background of a candidate- evolved through court decisions- is an added dimension to the rich tapestry of our constitutional jurisprudence“, the Apex Court observed.
“The right to vote, based on an informed choice, is a crucial component of the essence of democracy. This precious right resulted from a long and arduous fight for freedom for Swaraj, where the citizen has an inalienable right to exercise their right to franchise. This finds articulation in Article 326 of the Constitution, which enacts that “every person who is a citizen of India and is at least 21 years old as of a date that may be set shall be eligible to vote. and is not otherwise disqualified under this Constitution or any law enacted by the appropriate legislature on the grounds of non-residence, insanity, crime, or corrupt or unlawful practise, shall be entitled to be registered as a voter at such election”, the Court added.
In a recent case involving the appointment of Election Commissioners, a 4:1 majority of the Supreme Court’s Constitution Bench ruled that the right to vote is a Constitutional right. Justice Ajay Rastogi dissented, arguing that the ability to vote is a component of fundamental rights.
Case Title: Bhim Rao Baswanth Rao Patil V. K. Madan Mohan Rao & Ors, Special Leave Petition (C) No. 6614 Of 2023