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Casting votes part of voter’s right to freedom of speech and expression: Manipur High Court

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The Manipur High Court has ruled that casting of votes was a part of the voter’s right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India.

The single-judge Bench of Acting Chief Justice M.V. Muralidaran recently observed that a voter’s right to know the antecedents, including criminal past of the candidates contesting election for MP or MLA, was the most fundamental and basic right for the survival of democracy.

He said Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India provided for freedom of speech and expression. A voters’ speech or expression in case of election would include casting of votes, since the electorate speak out or express themselves by exercising their right to franchise.

Justice Muralidharan said a voter may think over before making his choice of electing law breakers as law makers.

The High Court made these observations on October 13, while rejecting a plea filed by Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Thounaojam Shyamkumar against petitions seeking dismissal of his election from Andro Assembly Constituency during the 2022 Legislative Assembly polls.

On October 9, the Supreme Court Collegium recommended transfer of Justice Muralidharan to the Calcutta High Court for ‘better administration’ of justice.

The next day, Justice Muralidharan requested to be transferred to his parent high court (Madras) or continue at the Manipur high court

However on October 11, the Collegium headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud reiterated its recommendation to transfer Justice Muralidharan, saying that it did not find any merit in the latter’s request.

As per the Supreme Court Collegium, it had consulted a Supreme Court judge who was conversant with the affairs of the Manipur HC and spoke to the chief justice of the Calcutta HC before recommending Justice Muralidharan’s transfer, thus following the memorandum of procedure.

On October 20, Justice Siddharth Mridul took oath as the seventh Chief Justice of the Manipur High Court. The office of the Chief Justice of Manipur High Court fell vacant with the elevation of Justice P.V. Sanjay Kumar to the Supreme Court in February, 2023. On July 5, the Supreme Court Collegium proposed appointment of Justice Mridul as the next Chief Justice. Justice Muralidaran was serving as the Acting Chief Justice.

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