Supreme Court Quashes PIL Seeking Fundamental Right Status For Voting

The Supreme Court of India made a significant decision on Monday, March 11, as it declined to entertain a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking the declaration of voting rights as part of fundamental rights.

Aastha Tiwari
New Update
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On March 11, the Supreme Court of India, rejected a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that sought to declare voting rights as an integral component of fundamental rights. The Chief Justice of India (CJI) highlighted the significance of a 'live controversy' and the necessity for a "live lis" (legal dispute) to invoke jurisdiction under Article 32. Despite the advocate's insistence on an impending threat to voting rights in India, the CJI maintained that there was insufficient evidence of a live issue justifying the court's intervention. The advocate supporting the PIL drew parallels with nations such as the USA and the UK, where past instances of rogue organizations threatening democracy prompted robust legal responses. However, the bench, seemingly disinclined to dig deeper into these comparisons, summarily dismissed the PIL without offering any opinion on its merits.


The Elusive Live Issue

The PIL was brought before the court with the argument that voting rights should be recognized as fundamental rights under the Constitution. However, the CJI pointed out that there must be a "live lis" (legal dispute) present for the court to intervene. Despite the advocate's assertion of an imminent threat to voting rights in India, the CJI stated that they did not find evidence to support such claims. It was observed, "We do not find the existence of any such live issue that warrants jurisdiction under Article 32. We dismiss without expressing upon the merits."

This decision marks a significant legal precedent regarding the scope of the Supreme Court's jurisdiction in matters concerning fundamental rights. While voting rights are undoubtedly crucial in a democratic society, the court's ruling underscores the necessity for a specific legal dispute to be present before it can intervene. 

To understand the context of voting rights, it is essential to revisit the precedent set by the Supreme Court in Anoop Baranwal v. Union of India. In this case, a 4:1 majority affirmed that the right to vote is a constitutional right. However, Justice Ajay Rastogi, in dissent, characterized it as a fundamental right. 

The refusal to entertain the PIL does not diminish the importance of voting rights in India. Rather, it highlights the procedural requirements that must be met for the court to adjudicate on such matters. It also stresses the principle of judicial restraint, whereby the court refrains from intervening in issues that do not present a clear legal controversy.

While the court emphasized the need for a 'live lis,' the criteria for what constitutes a live issue remain open to interpretation. The dismissal raises pertinent questions about the threshold for court intervention in matters of constitutional significance, particularly those pertaining to the bedrock of democracy – the right to vote. Moving forward, advocates for voting rights may also need to reassess their legal strategies and ensure that they meet the threshold for a "live controversy" before approaching the Supreme Court. 

The PIL has surely opened doors for deliberation on the issues of political rights and to what extent they are enforceable. It also subtly highlights the freedom to remain apolitical toward individuals. The moral weight of this is still debatable, and we are all up for a conversation. For now, the right to vote isn’t a fundamental right. 

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