Voters have the right to say no to all contestants in elections, rules apex court

Written by fe Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Sep 28 2013, 06:38am hrs
In yet another electoral reform, the Supreme Court on Friday upheld voters right to say no to all candidates contesting polls, saying it will foster the purity of the electoral process and it serves a very fundamental and essential part of a vibrant democracy.

It also directed the Election Commission to provide a None of the Above (NOTA) option at the end of the list of candidates in electronic voting machines (EVMs) and ballot papers to allow voters to reject all those contesting the elections.

Stating that this would compel political parties to field sound candidates known for their integrity, the three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam said that negative voting would encourage even people who are not satisfied with any of the candidates to turn up to express their opinion and reject all contestants.

For democracy to survive, it is essential that the best available men should be chosen as peoples representatives for proper governance of the country. This can be best achieved through men of high moral and ethical values, who win the elections on a positive vote... thus in a vibrant democracy, the voter must be given an opportunity to choose a None of the Above button, which will indeed compel the political parties to nominate a sound candidate. This situation palpably tells us the dire need of negative voting, the bench said its 50-page verdict.

Negative voting will lead to a systemic change in polls and political parties will be forced to project clean candidates. If the right to vote is a statutory right, then the right to reject a candidate is a fundamental right of speech and expression under the Constitution, the apex court said, while passing the order on a 2004 PIL filed by the NGO Peoples Union for Civil Liberties.

The right to vote for no candidate is defined under Section 49 (O) of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, but was not effective as the government did not agree to amend the rules. So far, people casting negative votes were required to enter their names in a register and cast their vote on a separate paper ballot.