Allow 18-year-olds to contest polls: Tharoor

Congress member Shashi Tharoor. PTI file photo

Congress member Shashi Tharoor wants more youngsters to enter Parliament and state legislatures.

On Friday, Tharoor introduced a private member's bill in the Lok Sabha seeking a reduction in the minimum age required to contest parliamentary and assembly elections from 25 years to 18 years.

A Constitution Amendment Bill introduced by Tharoor also seeks to make the right to vote in the Lok Sabha elections, the state assembly elections and the local self-government elections, a fundamental right of every citizen.

“For a country that has a majority of its population below the age of contesting elections and whose literacy has improved multifold since independence, the time has arrived to reduce the age to contest elections to eighteen years to vest and trust those who vote for us as representatives, to be able to be representatives themselves,” Tharoor said in the statement of objects and reasons of the bill.

Under Article 84 (b) of the Indian Constitution, the minimum age for becoming a candidate for the Lok Sabha is 25 years. For a candidate to the Legislative Assembly, Article 173 (b) prescribes a similar age limit of 25 years.

Tharoor argued that the right to vote has been recognised as a basic human right under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, both of which are internationally binding instruments on India.

He noted that despite such binding obligations, in the absence of the fundamental right to vote, courts have had to interpret Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution to include the right to know antecedents of the candidate, the right to secrecy of voting and the right to not vote.

“Such fictional distinction between the right to vote and freedom to vote created due to the absence of the fundamental right to vote in the Constitution of the largest democracy in the world is a mockery of the democratic form of governance. Therefore, the right to vote is required to be included as a fundamental right in the Constitution,” Tharoor said.

Any person who has attained the age of 21 years can be a candidate in the local self-government elections.

Nearly two-thirds of India's population is below 35 years and more than 15 million first-time voters aged 18 and 19 were eligible to exercise their franchise in the recent Lok Sabha elections.

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