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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Women in Purdahs can't be issued voter ID card Supreme Court

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today said that a burqa-clad woman cannot be issued voter ID cards. The Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justice Deepak Verma observed that a person in burqa could not be allowed to vote as it would create complications in identifying voters.

Counsel for petitioner M Ajam Khan had argueed that asking purdah-clad women to lift their veil for being photographed would amount to sacrilege as their photographs would be seen by many men working as polling agents and electoral officials. 'It will hurt their religious sentiments and the Election Commission must not insist on `purdah-nashin' women to be photographed for inclusion of their name in the electoral rolls,' said the petioner's counsel.

This argument did not impress the court and the Bench said: 'If you have such strong religious sentiments,and do not want to be seen by members of public, then do not go to vote. You cannot go with burqa to vote. It will create complications in identification of voters.'

Referring to the Madras High Court order upholding the EC's insistence for a photograph without veils, the Bench said that the elections have been conducted without staying the HC order and that those who do not comply with rules on voter identification not be allowed to vote.

The bench explained that the right to vote was only a statutory right and not a fundamental right. 'Right to contest an election is an extension of the right to vote. Can anyone contest an election saying photograph of her face be not taken? Can she be photographed in a burqa with a veil and yet contest an election?' the Court asked.

Though the Bench made its mind absolutely clear, it agreed to a detailed hearing on the issue at a later date.

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