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SC backs Centre decision to deny voters’ enrolment to army in J-K, NE

“Enrolment may result in change of demographic character” 

New Delhi, March 09: The Supreme Court has said that the Centre was “justified” in not registering armed forces personnel as general voters in northeast states and Jammu and Kashmir as it “may result in change of demographic character” of the area affecting the local populace and electoral profile.

Army personnel posted at forward and disturbed areas are not given voting enrolment facilities at their place of posting. However, those posted at peace stations can avail of these facilities, following a Supreme Court order in 2014.

“There are some areas where the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act is in force. There is a simmering tension between the forces and the local population, and therefore giving them such a facility could lead to exacerbating tension,” said the Centre.

It also said facilitating army personnel as general voters will involve “revealing sensitive information” on numerical strength and exact location of defence forces concentration. This may have “adverse security implications,” it added.

A bench comprising Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Prafulla C Pant, however, directed the Centre to consult the Election Commission and other stake holders to plan ways to ease the process of exercising the right to adult suffrage of the personnel and their families.

Noting right to vote was of “paramount importance”, the bench asked the Centre to explore possibilities of providing electronic voting facility to personnel in far-flung areas. It also asked the Centre to review the law that bars personnel posted in peace stations to be registered as general voters at the place of posting before three years.

The bench was hearing a petition by an army officer’s wife Neela Gokhale seeking directives on voting rights.