The Gujarat High Court Advocates’ Association has moved the Gujarat High Court demanding setting up of a polling booth on the premises of the high court for the Bar Council elections while challenging the provision of one polling booth for entire Ahmedabad city which, it claimed, adds to the travel time for high court lawyers desirous of casting their votes.
The association has challenged the decision of the returning officer against providing a polling booth for West Zone in the High Court premises.
As of now, there is a provision of only single pooling booth at City Civil Court, Bhadra. All eligible voters from the high court are required to travel to Bhadra to cast their votes.
Impleading the Bar Council of Gujarat and its returning officer, the association challenged the February 19 decision of the RO rejecting its demand for a separate polling booth for West Zone of Ahmedabad saying the same is illegal and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India as many lawyers fail to cast their vote despite their desire to participate in the election process as travelling to and from Bhadra to cast vote consumes a lot of time.
The petition, filed through association’s secretary Prithvisinh Jadeja, said, “The provision of only one polling booth for entire Ahmedabad City for 12,304 voters is contrary to the provisions of the Advocates Act and BCI Rules which provide for giving just reasonable and fair opportunity to eligible voters to cast their votes”.
It said, “All members of the association are put to great inconvenience and hardships in exercising their right to vote in the Bar Council of Gujarat election on account of the provision of only single pooling booth at City Civil Court, Bhadra. Time and again almost all members of the association have raised the demand that there should be one polling booth at the High Court premises also for the Bar Council of Gujarat election since, more than 1200 members of the Association are deprived of the easy access to the polling booth and thereby the representation of the High Court Advocates in the elected body of the Bar Council of Gujarat is prejudicially affected”.
The association claimed that if the voting pattern at the district and taluka level is examined, one would see substantial votes are polled at taluka and district level in comparison to voting in Ahmedabad city and more particularly voting by high court lawyers and attributed the trend to the polling booth being set up at City Civil Court, Bhadra, which is approximately 9 km away from the high court.
“The time which is taken to reach polling booth is approximately 45 minutes and a return journey to the high court takes 45 minutes. Each eligible voter is supposed to cast 25 preferential votes. Considering the rush at this single polling booth provided at City Civil Court, Bhadra, it would consume at least 30 minutes more for standing in the queue, obtaining ballot paper and casting 25 preferential votes.
“Therefore, each lawyer would require at least two hours at his disposal to cast his vote. On the day votes are polled, the courts function in a usual manner and therefore, it becomes impossible for the lawyers practicing in the High Court to spare two hours for casting their votes. This finally results in denial of the right to vote despite their desire to cast vote,” the petition said.
It also cited guidelines issued by the Election Commission of India in respect of the provision of polling booth which provides that for every polling booth, the voters should not exceed 1200. Further, the polling booths are to be so set up that no voter should require ordinarily to travel more than 2 km to reach the polling booth.
The association also argued against the policy of the respondents providing for separate polling booth for every 40 eligible voters at taluka or district association level and said, “Lawyers at a small Taluka court, where the eligible voters are just 40, will have a facility of separate polling booth at their doorstep, whereas, in megacity like Ahmedabad, where the voters list consists of 12,304 voters, there is be a single polling booth.”