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Secrecy of ballot is keystone in the Arch of Constitutional Democracy, Supreme Court

The SC on June 19, 2020 {LAXMI SINGH AND OTHERS vs REKHA SINGH AND OTHERS} held that no witness or other person shall be required to state for whom he was voted in an election. It was held that elucidating the importance of the provision, secrecy of ballot was appropriately styled as a postulate and keystone in the arch of constitutional democracy as the electorate or the voter should be absolutely free in exercise of franchise untrammelled by any constraints, including a constraint as to disclosure. 

The SC Bench, comprising of Justice N.V. Ramana, Justice Sanjiv Khanna & Justice Krishna Murari observed that it is the policy of law to protect the right of voters to secrecy of the ballot, albeit this right is something which can be claimed only by the voter himself against unwarranted disclosure. It was observed that Section 94 of the RP Act enacts a privilege in favour of the voter in that no one can compel him to disclose for whom she had voted but the privilege ends when the voter decides to waive the privilege and instead volunteers to disclose as to whom she had voted.

It was observed that one of the fundamental principles of election law pertains to the maintenance of free and fair elections, ensuring the purity of elections. It was held that the principle of secrecy of ballots is an important postulate of constitutional democracy whose aim is the achievement of this goal.

The SC held that question of whether the waiver of secrecy by individual voters is allowable during the election process, in a circumstances such as the present, where the Uttar Pradesh Kshettra Panchayat and Zila Panchayat Adhiniyam, 1961 and the 1966 Rules mandate that voting in a no confidence motion would take place by secret ballot requires detailed argumentation and analysis.

The SC, however, without going into the said question, held that ends of justice will be met if the Motion dated 1st October 2018 is put to revote at a meeting  by way of secret ballot with the District Judge, Allahabad himself or his nominee Additional District Judge, Allahabad, acting as the Presiding Officer on a date and time to be fixed by the District Judge, which shall not be later than two months. It was held this would be a just and fair direction in the factual matrix of the present case given the respective contentions and stand of the parties.

The appeals were accordingly disposed of by the SC in the above terms, leaving the question of law open.

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