The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Election Commission to bring out a proposal that could be formulated to enable the soldiers, who cast their votes through postal ballots or through proxies, to exercise their franchise at the place of their posting.
A Bench headed by Justice R M Lodha sought the EC’s views on a petition filed by an Army officer’s wife and advocate Neela Gokhale on Monday. This is the second petition in two months seeking voting rights for soldiers at the place of their posting.
The soldiers may be registered as voters in the constituency where they are serving or posted at the relevant time as ordinary residents of that constituency. This will enable them to cast their vote in person and reduce expenses involved in postal ballot system and eliminate the violation of secrecy of vote in the proxy procedure.
Last month, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, a Rajya Sabha MP, had also approached the court narrating the history behind virtually disenfranchising the soldiers. He said that till 1971, the Election Commission and even the Supreme Court in a judgment had recognized a soldier’s right to register as a voter at the place of his posting. He said, “Despite the 1971 verdict, the Army issued a Special Army Order in 1972 stating that all personnel are entitled to vote only through postal ballots and proxies. This order in effect hinders the soldiers from getting registered at the place of posting and being able to vote. “
“None of these processes have worked out effectively, as the postal ballots never reach in time and proxy vote violates secrecy.” Chandrasekhar said, “Are soldiers different from ordinary citizens? If no, why are they being denied one of the basic rights - right to vote - guaranteed to a citizen in a democracy? Are we not undermining the integrity of our democracy by denying the soldiers their right to vote?”