Observing that voting is a right, not a duty, Minister of State for Law and Justice SP Singh Baghel said on Friday that the idea of compulsory voting is against the principles of democracy.
Replying to a debate on the Compulsory Voting Bill that was introduced by BJP member Janardhan Singh ‘Sigriwal’ in 2019, Baghel said that if some people are not eager to cast their votes, they cannot be forced to do so.
Baghel mentioned that the Gujarat Assembly had passed a resolution making voting compulsory, but it was stayed by the High Court.
He said he agreed with the sentiment of the members on compulsory voting, but it was not practical to penalize people for not exercising their franchise.
Baghel said that several countries across the globe, including Philippines, Spain, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey, Uruguay, Venezuela, Bulgaria and Chile tried this experiment of compulsory voting but they soon realized that it led to some disparities that were damaging.
During his speech, Baghel hit out at the Congress party, saying it could not attract people to the polling booths. He said voting increased by 8.4 per cent in 2014 as compared to 2009 as people wanted to see Narendra Modi as their Prime Minister.
Voter turnout in the last Lok Sabha election was the highest ever at 66.11 per cent, he said.
Urging Sigriwal to withdraw the Bill, Baghel said that BS Rawat in 2004 and JP Agarwal in 2009, too, had introduced such a Private Member’s Bill, but they later withdrew.
Newsletter | Click to get the day’s best explainers in your inbox
Sigriwal then withdrew the Bill. The Bill had proposed a provision to provide a list of eligible voters who did not turn out for voting.
Earlier in the day, several Private Member’s Bills including one on the Agnipath Scheme by RSP member NK Premachandran were introduced in the Lok Sabha. However, BJP member Ravi Kishan’s Bill on population control could not be introduced as he was not present in the House.
BJD member Bhartruhari Mahtab, who was in the Chair, said, “Many members are not present in the House. Otherwise, there were 171 Bills that were to be introduced.”