Right to Contest Elections
Does Article 19 contain a right to contest elections?
Various judgements have been passed by the courts of India stating that the right to contest elections is not a fundamental right but a statutory right. In Sakhawat Ali v. Orissa, the Supreme Court held that disqualifying an individual from contesting an election does not violate his fundamental right under Article 19 (1)(g). In Jumuna Prasad v. Lachhi Ram as well, Supreme Court held that the right to contest elections is not common law or fundamental right but a statutory right subjected to certain conditions. Thus, it can be concluded that the right to contest elections does not come under the ambit of Article 19.
The importance of right to contest elections in a democracy and the limitations that can be imposed upon the same.
Elections are cardinal for the existence of democracy. It gives an opportunity to people to assert their voice and choose a person to represent their interests. And at the same time, it allows people to show their dissatisfaction towards a particular candidate or party. For a long time, there has been debate as to whether educational qualification should be a limitation imposed on the candidates standing for election. However, it is a slippery slope as it would be difficult to determine to what extent should the qualification be in order to be eligible and the implementation of the same would be next to impossible. At present, voters of the nation have the right to acquire information pertaining to whom they are voting for and how that particular candidate is gaining funds for the same. But political parties are not obliged to provide any such information to voters as they are outside the purview of the RTI Act. Therefore, in order to make the process of election transparent, political parties need to be brought under the ambit of Section 2(h) of Right To Information Act, 2005. The government of India has also imposed certain limitations such as the minimum age for the lower house being 25 years and for the upper house 30 years, a candidate cannot stand for election if there exists any criminal record or even any criminal allegation against the same. Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 also prescribes a maximum limit on the expenditure of candidates.
Does the right comes in conflict with the principles of fairness ?
The right to contest election does not come in conflict with the principle of fairness as in order to protect the interest of the people certain restrictions have to be imposed. These said restrictions are embodiment of the rights of the others. Therefore, it is necessary that not everybody is treated as equal, and reasonable restrictions are imposed. If people had the right to elect any one from their choices regardless of the qualifications, certain important criteria such as age, no criminal record, etc might be ignored. This ignorance of the people would be detrimental to the society as a whole.