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TMC Opposes EC Decision to Allow Postal Ballots for Voters Aged Above 65, Cites PM's Age

Representative image.

Representative image.

In a letter to the poll body, the Mamata Banerjee-led party also said the decision, which was taken last month in view of the coronavirus outbreak, poses a 'threat' to the Indian democracy.

Trinamool Congress (TMC) on Monday has requested Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sunil Arora to revoke the amendment made by the poll body on Thursday, which allows people above the age of 65 and COVID-19 patients to vote through postal ballot.

TMC’s General Secretary Subrata Bakshi wrote a letter to the CEC stating that the postal ballot voting is a violation of the right to secrecy of vote and poses a "threat" to the Indian democracy.

Excerpts of his letter to CEC reads, "We consider this move of wanting those above 65 years of age to vote through postal ballots as arbitrary, malafide, unconstitutional, and ex-facie a violation of Right to Secrecy of Vote, Right to Free and Fair Elections, and Right to Health of the Citizens of India."

He further said, "This amendment seeks to effectively disenfranchise those above the age of 65 from exercising their right to vote while denying them a fair, equal, and reasonable chance to participate in elections. Nearly 6 per cent of the Indian population are aged above 65 years and this amendment will have far reaching implications on the polity of our country. Our party is of the opinion that this amendment, issued without adequate consultation with the political parties, is antithetical to a robust and inclusive democracy."

While calling the amendment as 'discriminatory', the letter said, "The amendment made is also discriminatory to the constitutional scheme for elections. There exists no restriction on an upper age for participating in elections either to the Parliament or the state legislature, then why should the citizens above 65 years be restrained from participating in elections as electors. The Centre’s attempt to create a special classification for people above 65 years of age is arbitrary and without cogent reasons.

"Our party calls upon the Hon'ble Election Commission of India to revoke the said amendment. We also wish that in future the Election Commission finds in its wisdom to intervene and bar the Centre from usurping the Election Commission of India's powers vested by the Indian Constitution," the letter addressed to the chief election commissioner said.

Highlighting the age of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Ministers of various states, the TMC general secretary mentioned, "Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji, and at least 13 Chief Ministers in the country, are above 65 years of age. According to this latest amendment, they will surely find themselves in an absurd situation where they can campaign but not be allowed to vote at polling booths. It is rather ridiculous to suggest that a candidate over 65 years of age participates in an election, carries out campaigns, and then casts a vote through postal ballot."

TMC felt that the amendment violates this fundamental premise as it increases the chances of disclosure of voters' preferences to the public at large and therefore they have requested the CEC to revoke the said amendment.

In October 2019, the law ministry amended the Conduct of Election Rules to allow people with disabilities and those aged 80 or above to opt for postal ballot during Lok Sabha and assembly elections.

On June 19, the ministry notified a fresh change in the rules, allowing those aged 65 and above to opt for postal ballot.