The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to stay the Election Commission’s notification that allowed the exercise of NOTA (none of the above) option in the upcoming Gujarat Rajya Sabha elections scheduled to take place on August 8. A bench led by Justice Dipak Misra while seeking response of the Election Commission (EC) within two weeks agreed to examine the constitutional validity of the August 1 notification issued by the poll panel allowing the NOTA option. It questioned the delay by the opposition party in filing its petition, pointing out that the poll panel had issued a notification on the matter in January 2014 and another circular in 2015.
“When it suited you, you did not come. You come here on the eve of elections,” the bench said. Senior advocates Kapil Sibal, A M Singhvi and Harin Raval, representing Gujarat Congress, sought stay on the operation of the poll panel’s notification. Sibal said that ‘if the elections aren’t stayed, it will be a recipe for corruption.’ The apex court court also raised the question as to why the Congress had not challenged it before as Nota option became operational since 2014.
“The Supreme Court ruling was restricted to direct elections, while this is a case of indirect election on proportional representative by means of single transferrable vote. Both are entirely different,” Sibal argued, adding that not in a single election had NOTA been exercised so far. The Congress alleged that NOTA, which will be available for the first time in a Rajya Sabha election, is an attempt to influence the result in Gujarat.
There are three vacancies of RS seats in Gujarat and four candidates, including Congress leader Ahmed Patel, are fighting for the upper house berths. The NOTA provision has been introduced by the poll panel in pursuance of the apex court’s 2014 judgement asking it to consider granting choice of NOTA to the electorate. The Gujarat Congress had challenged using of the option of NOTA in the RS polls in Gujarat.
It alleged that use of the option would be violative of the provisions of the Representation of People’s Act, 1951 and the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961. The direction to have 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). The apex court posted the matter for further hearing on September 18.