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Right To Reject
|by Prerna Prasad|
None of the Above is a campaign for inclusion of ‘None of the Above’ button in the Electronic Voting Machines (EVM). It aims to provide all citizens, the right to reject all candidates so as to document their distrust against politicians.
Why Negative Voting?
Article 19 guarantees Freedom of Speech and Expression. Universal Adult Franchise provides freedom to make a choice amongst a list of contestants during General and State elections. But, the present system of EVM fails to lend the right to reject.
Reject all candidates if no one deserves the parliamentary or assembly seat.
If Freedom of Expression has freedom to make a choice, shouldn’t the same freedom also guarantee freedom to reject? Isn’t refusal of right to reject an indirect violation of our fundamental rights? How will it be implemented?
A ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) button need to be added to the EVM. Voter who does not find any of the listed candidates deserving his/her vote can press the NOTA button and express their distrust. As Political Analyst Yogendra Yadav points out, there can be two ways of implementing this idea. The first one is…the number of votes cast on NOTA button will not have any legal repercussions. NOTA would only act as a moral deterrent to motivate our political parties to distribute tickets on the basis of competency.
Even if NOTA receives majority, the candidate getting largest number of votes will be declared winner.
The second way of implementing it is one with a legal consequence. Under this, if NOTA receives majority, election could be declared invalid and we may get entangled in a cycle of elections. Political analysts fear that this clause could actually prove be a dangerous.
Many would criticize the concept of negative voting saying that it undermines democracy as elections are meant to elect candidates and not reject them. But, in a situation where politicians are incompetent and are not working in people’s interest, voters should have an option of expressing their true opinion, which is of distrust and rejection. ‘None of the Above’ button may also be criticized of being misused by political parties for deliberately not allowing the opposition candidate to win. But this misuse would not be effective till NOTA has a legal consequence.
Activists like JP Narayan fear that secessionist groups like Maoists, Kashmiri separatist groups, insurgency teams of North East may put our democracy to a halt by not allowing any candidate to win. But if they are choosing NOTA, they actually get a platform to express their real opinion. Also, they cannot fracture our democracy till NOTA has a legal repercussion.
Efforts to Bring the Concept into Existence
A writ petition was filed by People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) in the Supreme Court in 2004 to demand ‘None of the Above’ button in EVM. In February 2009, a three-judge Supreme Court bench gave a judgement, where it referred the matter to the constitutional bench citing that the case involves the issue of fundamental rights and hence a constitutional bench is the highest authority to decide on it. It has been 2 years and the court has yet not taken a decision. Even the constitutional bench that is supposed to hear the case has not been formed.
A number of RTI’s were filed March 2011 onwards asking Supreme Court to explain the reason behind incessant delay in decision. On one of the RTI appeals, a senior Supreme Court official said that the cases are heard in a chronological sequence and whenever NOTA’s case will fall in order, it will be taken. However, filing of RTI’s did prove to be of some help as after the appellate hearing on the RTI, this case 161 of 2004 can be cited in the Terminal List (list of cases to be heard in a particular year) of 2011. A ray of hope has risen as the case could be heard this year itself. But, still judiciary will take its own time. Hence, India needs to get united to put pressure for fast decision and implementation of NOTA.
Another way of getting this provision introduced is via a constitutional amendment in the election rules. This amendment to introduce NOTA can only be passed by our parliamentarians, if they form a consensus. At present, there is not even a bill on the subject. So, tremendous effort needs to be made to ask our parliamentarians to bring a bill and introduce NOTA.
A third way of implementing it is via a notice by election Commission. But, former Chief Election Commissioner TS Krishnamurthy during his tenure had requested the government to introduce the clause but unfortunately, our government did not take any action on it. Also, Krishanmurthy says that even if the NOTA is introduced on Election Commission’s notice, it could easily be challenged in court and NOTA could be cancelled. Hence, the permanent way of implementing it is only via constitutional amendment. So, ways could be several. Many are still not detected. We need to stay united and get NOTA implemented for allowing the true voice of the voters to be expressed.
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