Published on: 24 November 2022 at 20:47 IST
Supreme Court’s Justice KM Joseph disagreed with the position taken by the Election Commission of India that the right to vote is merely a statutory right and not a constitutional right.
He led the Constitution Bench, which is hearing petitions seeking an independent mechanism to appoint Election Commissioners.
The counsel for the Election Commission of India stated during the hearing that the right to vote is a constitutional right.
Justice Joseph questioned the lawyer, “What do you say about Article 326 of the Constitution?” The response was, “326 does not grant the voter the right.”
On this Judge asked to read the Article 326 of the Indian Constitution. The Article 326 of the Indian Constitution read as:
“The elections to the House of the People and to the Legislative Assembly of every State shall be on the basis of adult suffrage; that is, every citizen of India who is not less than twenty-one years of age on such date as may be fixed in that behalf by or under any law made by the appropriate legislature and who is not otherwise disqualified under this constitution or any law made by the appropriate Legislature on the ground of non-residence, unsoundness. (Note : At the time of adoption of the Constitution, the age for voting was 21 years, which was subsequently reduced to 18 years).
Justice Joseph questioned, “Are you claiming the Parliament’s legislative power would supersede the Constitution?” while highlighting the phrase “must be entitled to be registered as a voter at any such election.”
The judge further added that, “The right has been discussed in the Constitution. The essential element is that. It was originally 21 years and then reduced to 18 years. It is being thought about adding ancillary law making to give it teeth and flesh. The legislature is not permitted to increase the disqualification. Article 326 itself describes the disqualifications in detail “
“It may not be true to claim that it (the right to vote) is solely a statutory right,” Justice Joseph continued.
According to the ECI’s legal representative, voting rights are only guaranteed by statute. The Judge stressed that this bench is bigger, hence need to be observed carefully.
The other judges on the five-judge panel are Justices CT Ravikumar, Ajay Rastogi, Aniruddha Bose, and Hrishikesh Roy.