Ahmedabad: Gujarat government issued a notification in Ahmedabad on making voting compulsory for people of the state during elections to local self governing bodies.Incidentally, the bill was introduced when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was Chief Minister of Gujarat.
The notification would mean that people have to compulsorily vote from now onwards during elections held for municipal corporations, municipalities, and all village panchayats.
The Act has also made provisions to penalise those who fail to vote. However, the notification issued today has not specified what punishment would be meted out to voters who fail to exercise their franchise.
The notification was issued today by the Gujarat State Urban Development and Urban Housing Department. The Gujarat state government also issued another notification making voting compulsory for elected representatives of local bodies, who would face disqualification if they do not vote.
"We have issued notifications regarding the compulsory voting provision. Through these notifications, we are now making it compulsory for both citizens as well as elected representatives to cast their votes in local body elections," Gujarat Health Minister and government spokesperson Nitin Patel said.
"Later, we plan to announce what punishment would be meted out for people who fail to vote during local body elections. The Gujarat state government will announce rules regarding the degree and mode of punishment in the days to come," Patel said.
In November 2014, Gujarat Governor O P Kohli had given his approval to the Gujarat Local Authorities Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2009, which has a controversial provision to penalise citizens who fail to cast their votes in local body polls.
As per the new Act, registered voters who do not cast their vote and fail to produce any valid reason, are liable for punishment.
With today's notification issued by the Gujarat state government, the Act has come into effect.
Large scale local body polls for 253 municipalities, 208 taluka panchayats, 26 district panchayats and six municipal corporations are to be held in October this year.
Apart from notifying the Local Authorities Laws (Amendment) Act, 2009, the Gujarat state government has also notified the ordinance which makes voting compulsory for elected representatives as well.
Since the Assembly is not in session and local body polls are approaching, the Gujarat state government sought the Governor's nod to issue an ordinance to implement the compulsory voting rule for elected representatives for the forthcoming local body polls, expected to be held in October across the state.
Since Governor OP Kohli has given his approval to that ordinance, the Gujarat state government notified the ordinance today.
The ordinance has amended various provisions of three existing Acts, namely the Gujarat Provincial Municipal Corporation Act, the Gujarat Municipalities Act and the Gujarat Panchayats Act.
The Gujarat state government had claimed that these three acts do not have provisions to punish a public representative for failing to cast his vote.
After the ordinance notified today, elected representatives, such as corporators, would be disqualified if they fail to produce any valid reason for not voting in elections taking place in their wards.