Gujarat becomes first state to make voting compulsory in local body polls
In first week of November 2014, Gujarat Governor O P Kohli gave his assent to the controversial Gujarat Local Authorities Laws Bill, 2009 and gave his sanction for implementation.
This bill has the provisions of compulsory voting and 50 per cent reservation for women in the institutions of local self-governance.
Once the Act comes into effect, Gujarat will be the first state to have the provision of compulsory voting in local body polls.
Key provision of Gujarat Local Authorities Laws Bill
- The Bill encompasses municipal corporations, municipalities and the district, taluka and village panchayats of Gujarat.
- 50 per cent reservation for women in local bodies, raising the quota from 33 per cent.
- A person, who does not vote in the local body polls, will be liable for penal action and punishment. However, the nature of penalty that would be taken against defaulters has not mentioned.
- The new rule applies to the elections to all seven municipal corporations, 159 municipalities, 26 district panchayats, 223 taluka panchayats and in 13,713 village panchayats of the state.
Background of the Bill
The Gujarat Local Authorities Laws (Amendment) Bill 2009 has amended the Bombay Provincial Municipal Corp Act 1949, the Gujarat Municipalities Act, 1963 and the Gujarat Panchayat’s Act 1993.
The bill was passed by the legislative assembly twice in 2009 and 2011 when Narendra Modi was Chief Minister of the state.
Earlier, then Governor Dr. Kamla Beniwal had withheld the bill by saying that the provision of compulsory voting is violation of Article 21 of the Constitution and forcing voter to vote is against the principles of an individual liberty. However, in December 2009, the Bill was again cleared by the House and was returned for reconsideration to Governor in April 2010. It was again passed in March 2011, but didn’t succeed in getting assent of then Gujarat Governor Kamla Beniwal.