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Ahmedabad: The Gujarat government has issued a notification making voting compulsory in the forthcoming municipal and panchayat polls.

In 2014, Gujarat became the first state to make voting compulsory in local polls after governor O.P. Kohli approved the Gujarat Local Authorities Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2009, which had been rejected by his predecessor Kamla Beniwal.

Beniwal contended that the proposed law violated Article 19(1)(A) of the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression, including the right to not vote.

The law, which was passed in 2009 and again in 2011 under then chief minister Narendra Modi’s watch, was approved in November 2014.

With Tuesday’s notification by the Gujarat state government, the Act has come into effect.

Local body polls for 253 municipalities, 208 taluka panchayats, 26 district panchayats and six municipal corporations are to be held in October this year in Gujarat.

Apart from notifying the Local Authorities Laws (Amendment) Act, 2009, the Gujarat government has also notified an ordinance which makes voting compulsory for elected representatives as well.

“We have issued notifications regarding the compulsory voting provision. Through these notifications, we are now making it compulsory for both citizens as well as elected representatives to cast their votes in local body elections," Gujarat health minister and government spokesperson Nitin Patel said on Tuesday.

The government will announce later the nature of the punishment to be meted out to people who fail to vote in the local body elections, Patel added.

The notification empowers the state election commission to declare an absent voter a “defaulter", except in case of illness or if he or she is out of station. It says an absentee voter will face penal action, without specifying the nature of punishment.

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