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Universal Adult Franchise

Last Updated : 01 Nov, 2023
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The Universal Adult Franchise by Article 326, is defined as the basis for elections which are held in all the levels of the elected government. Universal Adult Franchise denotes that all citizens who are aged 18 years or above irrespective of caste, religion, color, race, and economic conditions have the right to cast their votes.

Universal Adult Franchise

Universal Adult Franchise

Features of Universal Adult Franchise

Some important characteristics of Universal Adult Franchise are as follows:

  1. In the case of democracy, the presence and importance of a Universal Adult Franchise are very essential, as the prime idea on which it is based is equality. It states all the adults of a given country, have the right to cast a vote, irrespective of their wealth or the community they belong to.
  2. The Constitution of India has adopted the principle of Universal Adult Franchise on the basis of elections to Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies.
  3. Representatives of States in Lok Sabha are the members who are elected directly from the people from the constituencies in the states.

Universal Adult Franchise- History and Background

In ancient times, the leader was selected based on his capability which is proved by going into the fight with a competent. Later on, many tribes witnessed nepotism. That means the next kin of the leader becomes the next leader. Leadership or the ruling opportunity became hereditary. This continued to the kings and kingdoms. It still exists in some countries.  Later this changed its course and the concept of people electing their leader came into existence. The process of the election did not get introduced at once. Firstly for some decisions or wherever the opinion of people was required elections or voting for it was conducted. This was limited to a small group of people. After that voting to elect a representative began. Some important points on the History and Background of Universal Adult Franchise are as follows:

  1. Only about 13 percent of citizens of India were granted the right to vote in the period before independence. The demand for Universal Adult Franchises grew in importance only a few decades before the attainment of independence.
  2. The Report of Motilal Nehru played an important role in the adult franchise and also in preaching equal rights for women. B.R. Ambedkar had appeared before Simon Commission in 1928 for persuasion for suffrage.
  3. Indian Nation Congress called for political equality in the year 1931. In 1947, India went forward with the composition of the first draft for rolling on universal adult suffrage.
  4. The universal adult franchise was adopted in the present form of the Indian Constitution in 1949 and came to be implemented on January 26, 1950.

Constitutional Provisions

The minimum age for the casting of a vote differed from country to country. In India, it is 18 years and the 61st Amendment Act of 1989 reduced the minimum age from 21 to 18. A registered voter should be:

  1. Citizen of India.
  2. Have a sound mind.
  3. Of the age 18 or above.
  4. Not be declared insolvent by any competent court.

Achieving Universal Suffrage

As mentioned earlier not everyone was given the right to vote. People were biased based on different grounds. People had to go through a lot of struggle and revolution in order to not be treated as biased and to include in the voting process which is the right to vote. Discrimination was different in different regions of the world. In countries like the USA, discrimination is based on race. Afro-Americans or blacks were treated as low class and whites were superiors. in the case of India, the grounds were religion, economic status, and caste. Only people with economic backgrounds and status were given the right to vote. later people with a good education were included. 

Status of Women

For centuries women are looked upon by men as inferior beings. They were restricted to doing many things and mostly pertained to household work. Women were not allowed to get educated for a long time. Later after women’s movements and revolutions, the situation of women in society improved little by little. The right to vote also encountered the same fate. After many movements and protests, the right to vote for all women was given gradually. First, the voting rights for high-class white women were allotted, Then after many years, the right to vote for black, marginalized, and low-caste women was given. In many backward societies right to vote for women is still a dream.

Importance of Universal Adult Franchise in Democracy 

Equality is the major basis on which democracy stands. Equity is tied in with guaranteeing that each individual has an equivalent chance to live a life with dignity. The universal adult franchise gives the right to vote to every person without any discrimination thereby treating all the people as equals. giving people the right to vote to show them the gesture or make them feel like equals before the government even with their differences. 

When standing in line to vote along with everyone rich-poor educated illiterate Hindu Muslim Christians and different castes shows that everyone is equal. Without that right to vote pertained to only a few higher societies of the country and the poor and marginalized would not be able to cast their vote or elect their representative. Without a universal adult franchise, the basic essence of democracy is disturbed. 

Universal Franchise in India: Evolution in India 

In India, the process of election goes back to 1909 with the Indian council act. 

  • Indian council act 1909: By this, the involvement of Indians as the members of legislative council was slightly enhanced and they were admitted to the legislative councils through elections. Along with this, the concept of a separate electorate was introduced for the communal representation of Muslims 
  • Government of India Act of 1919: Through the Government of India Act of 1919 bicameral legislature was introduced most of the representatives of both houses were elected through direct elections. Through this act, separate electorates for Sikhs, Indians, Christians, Anglo Indians, and Europeans were introduced.

The first general elections were conducted in 1920. The concept of a universal adult franchise did not exist in India back then. After the independence, the universal adult franchise was incorporated into the Indian constitution which came into existence in the year 1950. The first general elections for Lok Sabha in independent India were in the year 1951-1952  Out of 360 million population more than 170 million were eligible. The minimum age to vote was 21 back then.  For the first time, the universal adult was implemented.

At present, in India, the universal adult franchise is implemented in the elections for the following

  • Lok Sabha elections (election of MPs)
  • State Assembly Elections (election of MLAs)
  • Local Body Elections (Panchayat and Municipal elections) (elections for sarpanch and corporator)

In the elections for President, Vice President Universal adult franchise is not implemented directly but representative elections or indirect elections are held. 

Significance of Universal Adult Franchise in India’s Context

Some important significance of Universal Adult Franchise in the Indian context is as follows:

  1. Democracy was possible for India because of Universal Adult Franchise. India was able to depart from colonial practices in April 1947 because of the adoption of the Universal Adult Franchise.
  2. It helps to achieve gender equality.
  3. The concept of free as well as fair voting is regarded as the most important for the persistence of minority rights.
  4. It also helped the poor for gaining for freely choose their administrators.
  5. It helped in enhancing prosperity and increase infrastructural development.


Universal adult suffrage is considered to be one of the most critical decisions for helping shape India and was one of the important accomplishments for founding the Indian constitution for giving equal right to vote without any form of restrictions. It was founded in principles of the right to equality, for the foundation of democracy, and also for exercising the right to vote.

Related Links

  1. In a democracy why Universal Adult Franchise is important?
  2. Redefining Democracy of India
  3. Challenges Faced by Indian Democracy
  4. Equality in Indian Democracy
  5. The Power Sharing System in India
  6. Political Reforms
  7. What are the three levels of governance in India?

FAQs on Universal Adult Franchise

What is India universal adult franchise?

Universal adult franchise refers to the right of every adult citizen of the country for casting one vote in elections irrespective of class, gender, creed, religion etc.

What is the importance of universal adult franchise?

Democracy refers to equality for each citizen and democracy is for people, for the people and by the people and could work only when every citizen is free and also able to choose the government they want.

What is the principle of Universal Adult Franchise?

Universal Adult Franchise ensures that adult citizens to cast the right to vote without any form of discrimination based on caste, color, and religion.

Who introduced universal adult franchise in India?

Motilal Nehru in 1928.

What do you mean by Article 326?

Article 326 of the Constitution of India states that elections of people and legislative assemblies should be on the basis of universal adult suffrage.

When was the principle of universal adult suffrage implemented by the Indian Constitution?

The principle of Universal Adult Franchise refers to the implementation of data for the enactment of the Indian Constitution on 26 January 1950. 

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