Published on: 25 July 2023 at 11:42 IST
The Supreme Court of India emphasized the paradoxical situation where the right to vote, a vital aspect of democracy and an essential feature of the Constitution, has not been officially recognized as a fundamental right in the country.
The bench, comprising of Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Aravind Kumar, pointed out that a citizen’s right to vote, based on an informed choice, plays a pivotal role in the essence of democracy. Despite being an integral part of democratic principles, the right to vote is currently regarded as a “mere” statutory right rather than a constitutional fundamental right.
The court made these observations while upholding the election petition lodged by Congress leader K Madan Mohan Rao, who contested and lost the 2019 Lok Sabha elections from Zahirabad against Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) leader Bhim Rao Patil, with a narrow margin of 6,299 votes.
Rao alleged that Patil had provided false information in his election affidavit, particularly concerning criminal cases filed against him. The Telangana High Court initially dismissed the election petition, but the Supreme Court stayed this order and instructed the High Court to reconsider the matter.
The Supreme Court asserted that the right to vote is an inseparable part of the fight for freedom and self-governance, where citizens hold an inalienable right to exercise their franchise. Despite this acknowledgment, it is striking that the right to vote is yet to be recognized as a fundamental right, remaining relegated to the status of a statutory right.
The Court also highlighted that the disclosure of a candidate’s full background is a crucial aspect of constitutional jurisprudence. It asserted that voters have the right to be well-informed about the candidates they vote for, emphasizing the importance of transparency and accountability in the electoral process.
Regarding the election petition, the Court upheld the decision of the High Court, which had allowed the petition to proceed to trial. The Court rejected Patil’s contention that certain convictions should not be considered at the outset and emphasized that the effect of such allegations should be examined during a full trial.
The ruling reinforced the significance of the right to vote in a democratic society and underscored the need for voters to be fully informed about the candidates they choose. It also brought attention to the inconsistency in the legal status of the right to vote, urging for further consideration of its recognition as a fundamental right in India.
The legal representatives for both parties, Senior Advocates C Aryama Sundaram and Harin P Raval representing Bhim Rao Patil and Senior Advocates Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Salman Khurshid representing K Madan Mohan Rao, appeared before the court during the proceedings.