In a first, voting takes place at Institute of Mental Health

  1. For the first time ever in India, voting has taken place at an institution for mentally ill. The voting took place in the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) in Ayanavaram, Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Before the voting, a massive exercise was conducted in which patients were screened to ascertain their decision-making capacity.
  2. Article 326 of the Indian Constitution which deals with adult suffrage, states that a person is disqualified for registration in an electoral roll if s/he is of unsound mind and stand so declared by a competent court
  3. Section 16 of the Representation of the People Act, 1950 deals with ‘Disqualification for Registration in electoral roll’. Under Section 16 (b) a person may be disqualified as a voter if the person, ‘is of unsound mind and stands so declared by a competent court’.
  4. The main argument behind disallowing persons with “unsound mind” from voting is the need to maintain the integrity of the electoral process which requires a certain level of informed choice by individuals. It is presumed that persons with “unsound mind” lack the capacity to make informed choice and, hence, should not be allowed to participate in the electoral process.
  5. However, the term ‘unsound mind’ has not been defined anywhere in any Indian law or in the constitution. Further, it is important to note that mental illness does not necessarily mean unsound mind. The first ever voting in a mental illness institute in India is a proactive step towards ending stigma and discrimination against people suffering from mental health issues.