J. Venkatesan

New Delhi: The Election Commission on Tuesday said MPs and MLAs could abstain from voting in the Presidential election and such action would not attract disqualification. However, political parties could not issue a whip.

The NDA on Monday submitted a memorandum to the Commission seeking a direction to declare unconstitutional any direction by parties to their MPs/MLAs to abstain from voting.

The Commission said:

“Every elector in the Presidential election has the freedom of making a choice to vote for any of the candidates or not to vote.

“This will equally apply to political parties, and they are free to canvass or seek votes of electors for any candidate or requesting or appealing to them to refrain from voting. However, they cannot issue any whip to their members to vote in a particular manner or not to vote in the election leaving them with no choice, as that would tantamount to the offence of undue influence within the meaning of Section 171C of the IPC.”

The Commission clarified that “voting for election to the office of President is different from voting by a member of Parliament or the State Legislature inside the House, and that, as held by the Supreme Court, the provisions of the Tenth Schedule [relating to defections] may not apply to voting in the Presidential election.”

The court held that an elector would not attract the penal provisions of the anti-defection law for defying the party whip in Rajya Sabha elections.

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