New Delhi, Jul 23 (IANS): The Supreme Court on Friday emphasised that nobody can be permitted to dilute the right to free and fair election and that any attempt of booth capturing and/or bogus voting should be dealt with an "iron hand".
A bench comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and M.R. Shah said: "The essence of the electoral system should be to ensure freedom of voters to exercise their free choice. Therefore, any attempt of booth capturing and/or bogus voting should be dealt with iron hands because it ultimately affects the rule of law and democracy. Nobody can be permitted to dilute the right to free and fair election."
The bench observed that in direct elections for the Lok Sabha or state legislature, maintenance of secrecy is a must and is insisted upon all over the world in democracies where direct elections are involved to ensure that a voter casts his vote without any fear or being victimised if his vote is disclosed.
It upheld Jharkhand's counsel contention that "some may encourage by words, others by signs while others may actually cause hurt and yet all the members of the unlawful assembly would be equally guilty of rioting".
Observing that democracy and free elections are a part of the basic structure of the Constitution and the election is a mechanism which ultimately represents the will of the people, the bench pointed out that use of the force, even though it be the slightest possible character by any one member of the assembly, once established as unlawful, constitutes rioting.
"It is not necessary that force, or violence must be by all, but the liability accrues to all the members of the unlawful assembly," it added.
The top court made these observations while dismissing an appeal filed by Lakshman Singh, who was convicted under Sections 323 (voluntary causing hurt) and 147 (rioting) of the IPC, and was, with other accused, sentenced to undergo six months simple imprisonment by the trial court. The verdict which was upheld by the Jharkhand High Court. The accused had allegedly formed an unlawful assembly to snatch the voters list and to cast bogus votes and attacked some political workers during an election. The bench did not alter the sentence imposed since the state did not file an appeal.