BIG VICTORY FOR THE ARMED FORCES – SUPREME COURT ACCEPTS MP RAJEEV CHANDRASEKHAR’S PRAYER
New Delhi, 14th February 2019: “I started my legal fight to ensure our soldiers could vote in elections like every other citizen in early 2014. It was a shame that after decades as a democracy, most of our Armed Forces and their families could never effectively vote.
I had repeatedly requested in vain the then Congress government to enable this - and to remove the restrictions that prevent the Armed Forces and their families from casting their votes and exercising their fundamental right to vote as any other citizen of India. Faced with an apathetic Congress government, I approached the Supreme Court in 2014 and got an interim order permitting soldiers to vote in their place of posting in peace stations. The case has continued since, and today the Supreme Court has determined that men and women of the Armed forces can register as General voters and be active participants in our democratic process. For this I am grateful to the Supreme Court that has again and again supported every fight of mine for citizens’ rights. I thank my fellow petitioner Mrs. Neela Gokhale and the legal team headed by Senior Counsel Sajan Poovayya. I urge all in Armed Forces and their families to enroll as general voters wherever you live and join millions of citizens in shaping the future of our great country”
MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar has since early 2014 spearheaded a campaign to enable Armed Forces soldiers and their families to vote, and his petition to the Election Commission is available on www.change.org wherein he advocated the cause through signatures and missed call campaign, which evoked strong support from across the country.
As per the Interim Order which was secured on 24 March 2014, the Court had held that 'tenure posting of 3 years and such service personnel residing with family as provided in the order dated 28 December 2008 shall not be insisted upon'.
The last General Elections had happened while this interim order subsisted, and the same continues till date.
Civil Appeal No. 4025 of 2014 file by MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar v. Union of India & Ors. for Armed Forces Voting Rights was heard by the Hon’ble Supreme Court by the bench comprising of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice L N Rao & Justice Sanjiv Khanna today – 14TH February 2019
The prayer of his Civil appeal had been to permit registration of service voters at the place of posting without further restrictions.
The court after hearing the arguments of Mr. Sajan Poovaya, Senior Counsel for MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar and noting that interim orders as passed by the court regarding relaxation of the residency condition of 3 years (with family) has worked out in the last elections, the Election commission of India should not rigidly insist on the residence requirement or requirement of family residing with a soldier at the place of posting.
Thus, service voters (defence personnel) shall be entitled to get themselves registered as general voters, subject of course to the satisfaction of the election officer in charge of enrolment.
MP RAJEEV CHANDRASEKHAR’S PRAYERS ARE THEREFORE EFFECTIVELY ALLOWED.
The second limb of the proceedings was on the efficacy of e-voting, which was not a part of our submissions but was urged by other parties in connected petitions. The court had only held that electronic ballots may be continued as such.
Service voters shall have to apply as usual to enrol as general voter. The hurdle in the way were added conditions like 3-year residence (& with family) for enrolling. SC has today said in the order that the ECI shall be flexible in applying the conditions and therefore yes, service voters would be able to enrol as general voters