With a view to bringing about purity in elections, the Supreme Court on Friday held that a voter could exercise the option of negative voting and reject all candidates as unworthy of being elected. The voter could press the ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) button in the electronic voting machine.
“For democracy to survive, it is essential that the best available men should be chosen … 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 the NOTA option would indeed compel political parties to nominate sound candidates, said a Bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam and Justices Ranjana Desai and Ranjan Gogoi, while allowing a petition filed by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties.
Writing the judgment, the CJI said: “Giving right to a voter not to vote for any candidate while protecting his right of secrecy is extremely important in a democracy. Such an option gives the voter the right to express his disapproval of the kind of candidates being put up by the parties. Gradually, there will be a systemic change and the parties will be forced to accept the will of the people and field candidates who are known for their integrity.”
The Bench said the NOTA option “will accelerate effective political participation in the present state of the democratic system and the voters will in fact be empowered.” The right to cast a negative vote, “at a time when electioneering is in full swing, will foster the purity of the electoral process and also fulfil one of its objectives, namely, wide participation of people.”
Not allowing a person to cast a negative vote would defeat the very freedom of expression and the right to liberty, it said.
The Bench held that Election Conduct Rules 41(2) and (3) and 49-O of the Rules were ultra vires Section 128 of the Representation of the People Act and Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution to the extent they violate secrecy of voting.