Kolkata (West Bengal) [India], July 6 (ANI): All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) on Monday wrote to Election Commission saying that amendments allowing those above 65 to vote through the postal ballot was "arbitrary, mala fide and unconstitutional" and sought its revocation.
In a letter, Trinamool Congress general secretary Subrata Bakshi said the decision of the panel was "ex-facie a violation of the right to secrecy of the vote, right to free and fair elections, and right to health of the citizens".
"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 six 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. The said amendment is also permanent in nature rather than a temporary arrangement to deal with the ongoing pandemic," the letter said
He said Trinamool Congress was of opinion that the amendment, "issued without adequate consultation with the political parties, was antithetical to a robust and inclusive democracy".
"The amendment made is also discriminatory to the constitutional scheme for elections. There exists no restriction like an upper age for participating in elections either to the Parliament or the state legislatures, then why should the citizens above 65 years be restrained from participating in elections as electors. The said citizens cannot be excluded out of the mainstream and be taken on the less travelled and the extraordinary path of postal ballot," the letter said.
It said the Centre's attempt to create a special classification for people above 65 years of age "is arbitrary and without cogent reasons".
The party said Prime Minister Narendra Modi 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," the letter read.
The AITC said that it is "rather ridiculous" to suggest that a candidate over 65 years of age participates in an election, carries out campaigns, and then cast vote through postal ballot.
"This is an attempt by the Centre to treat people over 65 years as outcasts, for reasons best known to the Centre. Safeguarding the right to secrecy of the voter, who he or she chooses to vote for, is essential for free and fair elections. The amendment violates this fundamental premise as it increases the chances of disclosure of voters' preferences to the public at large."
The party said, "the postal ballot system is highly susceptible to the coercive influence of many nefarious elements, ruling party agents, government officials, and thus leading to mass rigging of elections".
"The said amendment directly interferes with the conduct of free and fair elections, which is the bedrock of our democracy and has been enshrined as a basic feature in our constitution," the AITC said.
The party said that the notification has been made "to protect right of vote of COVID 19 patients and/or those at high risk".
"However, upon careful examination, it is evident that the cumbersome process for voting via postal ballots will put the elderly at a greater risk of getting infected by the virus".
It said the entailed procedures will substantially increase the expenses incurred by the public exchequer.
"Our party calls upon Election Commission of India to revoke the said amendment," the party said. (ANI)