Madras High Court upholds Postal Ballot facility for absentee voters

The Samikhsya Bureau

NEW DELHI: The Madras High Court, on Wednesday, dismissed a petition challenging the provision of postal ballots for absentee voters including senior citizens of above 80 years, persons with disabilities, COVID-19 affected/ suspected and persons employed in essential services.

The bench headed by the Chief Justice in their order held that “It must be acknowledged that all that the Election Commission has done here is to be inclusive and allow certain classes of persons who would have  been excluded from exercising their franchise the right to use the postal ballot and participate in the celebration of the festival of democracy”.

The Court did not find any arbitrariness in the classification of the persons committed by the rules of 1961 to cast their vote by postal ballot.

“Equally, there does not seem to be any arbitrariness in the classification of  the persons permitted by the Rules of 1961 to cast their vote by postal ballot .The consideration appears to have been as to who may not be able to physically   attend a polling booth to cast her vote. If such is the consideration, there is no arbitrariness in the classes of persons enumerated by the amendments of 2019 and 2020, particularly, as the object appears to be to afford such classes of persons their basic right to participate in the democratic process,” the Court observed.

The Court further observed that it is well within the plenary powers of the Commission to issue guidelines to facilitate the elections.

The Election Commission of India started the optional postal ballot to some of these categories since Jharkhand elections of 2019. In 2020 Bihar General Elections, postal ballot options were extended to all these categories which was exercised by more than 52,000 such electors.

In the on-going elections and bye-elections, Commission has already laid down detailed guidelines to facilitate postal ballot options for such categories of electors to make elections more inclusive, in the line of its motto “No voter to be left behind”.