THE Supreme Court Wednesday issued notice to the Central Government, Election Commission and the Assam Government on a petition filed by 26 individuals seeking the removal of the ‘D’ tag (doubtful/dubious) against their names on the electoral rolls.
A bench led by CJI SA Bobde fixed the hearing of the matter after four weeks.
The petitioners, all from Barpeta District in Assam, alleged that since they were tagged ‘D’ in 1997, they had continually suffered a violation of their rights and their descendants had been denied citizenship as a consequence.
The plea alleged that they were marked as doubtful voters in 1997 without any enquiry or verification; no reasons were given to them either. This, the plea said, had resulted in the denial of their basic fundamental rights, including loss of livelihood, hindered access to government entitlements (like the right to food, hospitals, education, etc), threatened them with indefinite incarceration and caused them to be stateless.
To buttress their contention, the petitioners relied upon the response they received from the Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) under the Right to Information Act (RTI) saying no record of the ‘D’ tag was available in the office.
They submitted that as per Article 326 of the Constitution, there were only three grounds to attract disqualification: (a) non residence, (b) unsoundness of mind; or (c) crime or corrupt or illegal practice. In the case of the petitioners, none of these grounds were attracted. In fact they had continued to vote until 1997, when the tag appeared arbitrarily.
“Art. 326 lays down very specific disqualifications of when the right to be registered as a voter and thereby voting may be revoked, once a person has proved their citizenship of India, and is eighteen years of age or more. In the absence of these disqualification, the right to voting cannot be revoked. It is the case of the petitioners that their inclusion in the electoral rolls were made upon furnishing adequate proofs of citizenship. Thereby, in a belated, and arbitrary action, they cannot be deprived of this right with following the procedure established by law”, the petition read.
Advocates Jayashree Satpute, Tripti Poddar and Prasanna S appeared for the petitioners.
The article was originally published in The Leaflet.