Mumbai, Feb 2 | In a development with wide-ranging ramifications, Maharashtra Speaker Nana F. Patole on Tuesday asked the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government to look into the feasibility of giving people the option to vote either through the Electronic Voting Machine or the traditional ballot papers by enacting a suitable law.
The option could be for the state Assembly elections – due in 2024, and polls for the local bodies like Municipal Corporations and Councils, Zilla Parishads and Gram Panchayats, which are conducted periodically.
“Under Art. 328 of the Indian Constitution, the states are empowered to make such a provision with respect to the Assembly elections For this, the state government would have to enact a suitable legislation,” Patole told IANS.
Patole’s directives came during the hearing of a petition to this effect submitted by Nagpur-based lawyers Pradeep M. Uke and Satish Uke in the Vidhan Bhavan this afternoon.
In the memorandum, the Ukes have urged the Speaker – a senior Congress leader from Vidarbha – that the citizens should be given the option and the right to exercise their franchise through either EVMs or ballot papers during elections.
Present at the hearing by Patole were Medical Education Minister Amit V. Deshmukh, MLC Abjijit Vanjari, Principal Secretary (Legislature) Rajendra Bhagwat, Chief Electoral Officer Baldev Singh, Principal Secretary (Law & Judiciary) Bhupendra Gurav.
The Art. 328 referred to by the Speaker states: “Power of Legislature of a State to make provision with respect to elections to such Legislature Subject to the provisions of this Constitution and in so far as provision in that behalf is not made by Parliament, the Legislature of a State may from time to time by law make provision with respect to all matters relating to, or in connection with, the elections to the House or either House of the Legislature of the State including the preparation of electoral rolls and all other matters necessary for securing the due constitution of such House or Houses.”
The unprecedented – and politically sensitive – suggestion by any Speaker in the country is expected to kick off a debate, though the other MVA allies – Shiv Sena and Nationalist Congress Party – and the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, have not yet reacted to Patole’s proposition.