In a setback to Congress, the Supreme Court on Thursday refused to stay Election Commission’s notification allowing None of the Above (NOTA) provision in the upcoming Rajya Sabha polls in Gujarat. The Congress party had approached the top court, seeking a stay on the notification which it termed “unconstitutional.”
Here are 10 things to know about the development:
- On Thursday, Supreme Court bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra, Amitava Roy and A M Khanwilkar, rejected Congress plea for a stay on the notification. However, the apex court agreed to examine the constitutional validity of the August 1 notification of the Election Commission allowing the NOTA option, according to PTI.
- “Issue notice. We will examine it. We are not going to stay the proceedings,” the bench said when senior advocates Kapil Sibal, A M Singhvi and Harin Raval, representing Gujarat Congress chief whip Shailesh Manubhai Parmar, sought an interim stay on the operation of the poll panel’s notification, PTI reported.
- The NOTA provision was introduced by the poll panel in pursuance of the Supreme Court’s 2014 judgement asking it to consider granting choice of NOTA to the electorate.
- The apex court rejected Sibal’s contention that NOTA provision “will encourage corruption”.
- There are three vacancies of RS seats in Gujarat and four candidates, including Congress leader Ahmed Patel, are fighting for the RS berth.
- The Congress petition had sought the quashing of the August 1 circular issued by the secretary of the Gujarat Assembly. The circular stated that the NOTA option would be made applicable in the Upper House elections.
- Congress alleged that use of NOTA would violate provisions of the Representation of People’s Act, 1951 and the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961. Its plea sought to quash and declare as “void” the circulars dated January 24, 2014 and November 12, 2015, issued by the ECI making available the option.
- A direction to enforce NOTA in the elections was enforced in January 2014 after the Supreme Court in 2013 made it mandatory to have the option in the electronic voting machines (EVMs).
- In the Rajya Sabha polls, the MLAs have to show their ballot paper to an authorised party agent before putting it in ballot box. If a voter (MLA) defies the party directive and casts the
ballot for someone else or uses the NOTA option, he cannot be disqualified as a legislator, according to PTI.
- However, a party is free to take disciplinary action including expulsion against an MLA defying party directive. The defiant voter can continue to be an MLA and his vote can also not be invalidated for defying the party direction, according to the ECI rules.
The election for three Rajya Sabha seats in Gujarat will take place on August 8.