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Nota and Option of Re-Election (16 March 2021)

Nota and Option of Re-Election (16 March 2021)

Context:

  • Eight years after giving voters the option to use NOTA – that’s None of The Above option in the elections, the Supreme Court has now sought responses from the Centre and the Election Commission of India on whether it would be legally permissible to reject all candidates in the fray if NOTA votes exceeded that of the candidate securing the highest number of votes.

Background:

  • The top court was hearing a plea filed by advocate and BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, that seeks to direct the poll panel to nullify an election result and conduct a fresh poll if the maximum votes are for None of the above in a particular constituency.

Summary of the Debate

About NOTA (None of the Above):

  • The option of NOTA for Lok Sabha and assembly elections was prescribed by the Supreme Court of India on September 27, 2013. 

  • This enables the voter to officially register a vote of rejection for all candidates who are contesting an election. 

  • If a voter chooses to press NOTA on the EVM, it indicates that the voter has not chosen to vote for any party.

  • The purpose of bringing in bringing about Nota was to decriminalize politics and also to ensure that political parties when they select their candidates, they are more responsible.

  • The option of NOTA in RS polls was introduced by the EC in 2014. 

  • The NOTA option was first used in the 2013 assembly elections held in four states -- Chhattisgarh, Mizoram, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and the Union Territory, Delhi.

  • India became the 14th country to institute negative voting.

  • In 2014, 1.11 percent of the total electorate was under Nota, the votes polled and in 2019, it decreased to 1.08 percent.

About the plea in the supreme court that seeks to nullify an election result if Nota gets maximum number of votes:

  • The petition says that the right to reject and elect a new candidate will give power to the people to express their dImplementing NOTA in the right spirit - The Hinduiscontent. 

  • If voters are dissatisfied with the background or performance of contesting candidates, they will opt for NOTA to reject such candidate and elect a new one. 

  • The contesting candidates rejected in the nullified elections, shall not be allowed to participate in the fresh election. 

  • This PIL is only about if the votes polled under Nota is more than the votes polled by the winning candidate. So, that's very important, it is not about winning margin. 

  • Secondly, fresh elections to take place in that scenario and subsequently candidates who had contested in the earlier elections which has been nullified should be barred.

  • Although, while hearing the plea on Monday, CJI Bobde said that in our electoral system, such a move would be counter-productive. Many seats in Parliament and assemblies could go vacant and constituencies would go unrepresented for a long time.

What is the issue?

  • This issue has been in discussion for quite some time the problem is with the Rule 64 of Conduct of Election Rules.

  • Rule 64 says that the returning officer shall declare a candidate who secures the maximum number of votes as elected.

  • Now, Nota is not a candidate and therefore even if Nota gets highest number of votes cannot be declared elected or the election cannot be nullified.

  • Even if 99.99 percent would go to Nota and if just one vote is secured by one candidate that candidate will have to be declared elected according to this rule.

  • So, unless this rule is amended there is no scope for having re-election because Nota has got maximum number of votes.

What can be done?

There are many other options not that a fresh election is required if Nota gets maximum number of votes:

  • If Nota has certain number of votes and there are 10 candidates who secure less number of votes than Nota, we can think of disqualifying all these candidates for a period of six years that they cannot fight any election for six years to give a message to the political parties that please field good candidates who are not rejected in this manner by the electing people.

  • There can also have an option under the Conduct of Election Rules and RPA Act, 1951, where we can provide that in case, there are a number of parties which field candidate who failed to secure equal or more votes than Nota then these parties can be asked to fund the fresh poll if this fresh poll is required because public cannot be punished for the mistake or for the wrongdoing of some other stakeholders.

  • Another option could be to think in terms of proportion of votes, in terms of these are the votes which have been polled under various candidates and the Nota votes, what is their proportion, that proportion can also be looked into for deciding whether it has to be nullified or not to be nullified.

  • All these options need to be weighed with pros and cons and only then we should start or we can make a small beginning in fact Maharashtra, the state election commission said that under plenary powers they are trying to bring in this provision that if no candidate secures more vote than Nota they will have fresh elections but this was ever implemented.

  • There is a need for giving more teeth to Nota but right now it is only giving total secrecy to a voters voting behavior because we know that use of abuse of money in our elections is dampened and it is rising by the day 

Conclusion:

  • Democracy has its flaws it's not perfect, we don't choose a perfect man or a woman, we try to choose the best candidate, the best is not in terms of its absoluteness, the best among the choices that you have.

  • Now, if good people are not coming out to contest election, people cannot be forced, it is only the people who are there and therefore, the surrounding laws that exist today have forced the political parties to come out with clean candidates.

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