By Sonakshi Samtani:
With the Lok Sabha elections hardly a month away, here are a few basic facts that you need to know as a responsible voter.
How To Get A Voter I.D.?
The simplified voter registration process doesn’t require you to stand in long queues to submit an application. The Election Commission has a fast online process for you to register your name in the voter’s list. You need a soft copy of your passport sized photograph and a valid address proof to complete the online process.
To register yourself as a new voter, you need to fill up form no. 6 using this link.
If you are a non-resident Indian, you can enroll yourself in the voter’s list by filling up for no. 6-A here. However, this only enrolls you as an elector. You need to be present at a polling station in India to cast your vote.
If there are any corrections to be made in your voter ID, then you can apply for the same by filling up form no. 8.
Voter’s Rights In India
Who Can Vote?
It is a general rule that only Indian Citizens who are above the age of 18 and whose names are registered in the electoral roll are entitled to exercise their right to vote. Electors Photo Identity Card is given by the Election Commission to each voter. It serves as the primary proof to the holder of the card as belonging to a particular constituency.
Vote By Post: This provision might be unknown to a large chunk of the electorate. But, In a parliamentary or assembly constituency, special voters, service voters, voters on election duty and electors subject to preventive detention are entitled to vote by post. At an election in Council Constituency; voters on election, duty electors subjected to preventive detention and electors in the whole or any specified parts of the constituency, if directed by the Election Commission in this behalf under clause (b) of rule 68, are entitled to the special power.
Right To NOTA
Anyone who has been following the news updates regularly must have heard about NOTA. For those who haven’t, NOTA stands for None Of The Above. The direction in the judgment dated 27th September, 2013 of the Supreme Court is to provide a NOTA option on the EVM and ballot papers so that the electors who do not want to vote for any of the candidates can exercise their option in secrecy.
However, the main contention is about the supposed relevance of NOTA. “It doesn’t give you an alternative. If I choose NOTA, I am not voting for a better alternative, it is like not voting at all.”, says Susmithaa Selvaraj, a final year Political Science student at LSR. “If it has no functionality, then why have it? It is like throwing your vote away.” agrees Reetu Samtani, a History student at LSR. However, Kriti Pradhan, an FYUP student of Sociology says “Of course NOTA makes a difference. it shows your dissent towards the kind of candidates that a party has. It discourages them from bringing up the same candidates again.”
Hence, even though NOTA doesn’t have a functional aspect per se, it does indicate that the voters don’t prefer anyone from the given options. It is an exercise of responsible citizenship. The numbers reflect that the country’s voters are not ignorant of the political developments, there is an element of voluntary choice. Moreover, you aren’t settling for the lesser of two evils while voting; there is a conscious, well informed choice at play. It is your right to reject all the candidates. Isn’t that a part of what we were asking for?
Voting Rights To NRIs
The centre, in 2010, issued a notification allowing NRIs to vote in India. The new law after that allowed an Indian citizen residing abroad to enroll in the voter’s list and exercise his/her franchise. NRI voters can enroll in voter’s list by filling up Form no. 6a on the Election Commission’s website.
Right To Information
The Constitution of India guarantees citizens with the right to know about the electoral candidates. The Court ruling made it a right for voters to be entitled to know about the criminal, educational and financial details of electoral candidates. As per the landmark Supreme Court judgment pertaining to Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution of India, the electoral contestants are now required to submit affidavits along with their nomination papers.
The affidavit should include the following information:
1. Whether the candidate has any criminal record or not, if so whether s/he has been punished with imprisonment or fine.
2. Whether the candidate is involved in any pending legal case, for an offence which is punishable with an imprisonment for 2 years or more, prior to six months of filing nomination. If yes then the candidate must provide the details thereof.
3. The details about assets owned by the candidate, his/her spouse or other dependents. The assets include movable and immovable property and bank balances.
4. The details about liabilities, particularly in case of debts with public financial institutes and government dues.
5. The educational qualifications of the candidates should also be mentioned.
Further, the Court directed the Election Commission to issue a notification, making it necessary for the candidates to give the details about the aforementioned information. On March 27, 2003, the Election Commission (EC) issued a notice stating that in case of failure to submit the affidavit, the candidate will be rejected. Also, District Election Officers are required to make available all nomination papers including these affidavits to the general public on request.
Here is a link to the FAQ for general voters.
Election Campaign Guidelines
Here are bits of essential information about the moral code of conduct for the candidates, that even the voters should be aware of.
The organizers (of processions) shall take steps in advance to arrange for passage of the procession so that there is no block or hindrance to traffic. If the procession is very long, it shall be organized in segments of suitable lengths, so that at convenient intervals, especially at points where the procession has to pass road junctions, the passage of held up traffic could be allowed by stages, thus avoiding heavy traffic congestion
All political parties and candidates must refrain from serving or distributing liquor on polling day and during the forty eight hours preceding it.
The right of every individual for peaceful and undisturbed home-life shall be respected, however much the political parties or candidates may resent their political opinions or activities. Organizing demonstrations or picketing before the houses of individuals by way of protesting against their opinions or activities shall not be resorted to under any circumstances.
No political party or candidate shall permit their followers to make use of any individual’s land, building, compound wall etc., without their permission for erecting flag-staffs, suspending banners, pasting notices, writing slogans etc.
The carrying of effigies purporting to represent member of other political parties or their leaders, during processions, burning such effigies in public and such other forms demonstration shall not be countenanced by any political party or candidate.
The full text of the Moral Code of Conduct for political parties and candidates, issued by the Election Commission can be accessed here.