Peoples Union for Civil Liberties v Union of India: Is Indian democracy dependent on a statute?

Publication Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



At the very heart of every political democracy is the right of citizens to participate in its democratic processes. The right to vote is the bedrock of a democratic polity and the essence of representative governance. No right is more precious than the right to have a voice in the election of those who make laws that govern us. All other rights, even the most basic, are illusory without a meaningful right to vote. While democracy is not synonymous with the right to vote, it is undeniable that there is little left of it when the right to vote itself is taken away. For “at the bottom of all tributes”, to borrow the matchless words of Sir Winston Churchill, “is the little man, walking into a little booth, with a little pencil, making a little cross on a little bit of paper--no amount of rhetoric or voluminous discussion can possibly diminish the overwhelming importance of the point”. This note is an analysis of the status of the right to vote under the Indian Constitution. The debate on the status of right to vote in India was presented with a novel dimension in the opinion of the Judge P.V. Reddi who in the recent case of Peoples Union for Civil Liberties v Union of India observed that the right to vote has its roots in the Indian Constitution and, therefore, is a constitutional right. Strange as it may seem to readers from other constitutional jurisdictions, this was the first occasion that such a judicial opinion has been expressed. For nearly five decades, the Indian Supreme Court had consistently held the view that the right to vote in India was a statutory right “pure and simple”.


Constitutional rights, Democracy, India, Right to vote


Asian Studies | Public Law and Legal Theory

Research Areas

Law, Society and Governance


Public Law

First Page


Last Page





Sweet and Maxwell

This document is currently not available here.