The Supreme Court today opened the doors for defence personnel in peace stations to get registered as voters in constitutency of their posting and pulled up the Election Commission for its "rigid stand" which was coming in the way of "right to vote of service personnel".
After an hour-long deliberation, the Election Commission budged from its stand and made a statement that those service personnel who have not made declaration till now to cast vote through postal ballot "may register themselves as 'General Voters' in respect of constituencies where election process has not yet commenced". The apex court in its interim order clarified that "this (order) is subject to such service personnel being posted at peace station on January 1, 2014 and continued to be posted till date". "We further record and accept the statement of the senior counsel (of EC) that in that situation the tenure posting of three years for such services personnel and their family shall not be insisted upon," a bench comprising justices R M Lodha and Kurian Joseph said in the order.
The bench asked the Centre to provide within two days from today the data of such peace stations to the Election Commission and also take all necessary steps to make postal ballot effective. The apex court made it clear that the "Election Commission is within its power to issue instruction/guidelines prohibiting political parties from campaigning in peace stations".
During the hearing, the bench asked the Commission to facilitate the process to allow defence personnel to caste their votes in coming general elections and raised questions on its reluctance for not allowing them to cast votes in the constitutency of their posting by putting in condition of working there at least three years and living with family. It said the EC should not take a hard and technical stand so that the statutory right of citizens is taken away. "What surprises us is that when the EC desires 100 per cent polling why should the Commission do anything which deprives a person his right to vote. There must be some reasons behind it. It is a very important Constitutional right and one should not be deprived of it," it said.