NOTA, i.e., None of the Above is a voting option which gives a voter the choice to officially register a vote that does not go to any political party or any person as such. It makes up for rejection of all the existing candidates of that particular constituency. If a voter chooses to go for NOTA on the EVM (Electronic Voting Machine), it indicates that the voter has a right to not vote for any of the party.
It was in the case of People’s Union for Civil liberties (PUCl) & Anr vs Union of India & Anr (2013), that the Supreme Court directed the Election Commission to add an option of NOTA in the EVMs. Thereafter, in pursuance of said judgment, Election Commission provided HOTA option in the assembly elections held in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Delhi, etc.
According to Election Commission, however, there is no electoral value of NOTA, i.e., it comes under the ‘Invalid Votes’ category and thus, does not account for total number of ‘Valid Votes’. So even if maximum number votes cast is for NOTA, then also the candidate getting most of the remaining votes would be declared the winner.
So the question arises why do we neven need NOTA when it is not accounted for while declaring results? A very succinct and eloquent answer of this question can be found in the Supreme Court Judgment itself.
- It encourages people to turn up and express their opinion of rejecting all the candidates if they don’t find them satisfactory enough to represent them.
- In a vibrant democracy, the voter must be given an opportunity to choose none of the above (NOTA) button. (Para 51)
- This negative voting can lead to political parties changing their candidates and can even persuade political parties to project clean and sound candidates.
- Voting is a fundamental right of every person under article 19(1)(a) and 21 of the constitution. So the right to vote someone also includes right to not vote for anyone. It is a fundamental right of a person to reject any candidate.
- Non-participation causes frustration and disinterest, which is not a healthy sign of a growing democracy like India. (Para 50)
- It will foster and fulfil one of the objectives of the electoral process, namely, wide participation of people.(Para 53)
- Even in the Parliament, members are given the right to ‘Abstain’ from the proceedings of the house.
- There are the host of other countries which have adopted the idea of negative voting such as Brazil, Spain, USA, Sweden, Colombia, Greece, Ukraine, Finland, Belgium, France, Chile, Bangladesh, etc.
The main objective of NOTA is to enable electors who do not wish to vote for any of the existing candidates to exercise their right to vote without any violation of their privacy which is a fundamental right of every voter.
In fact, negative voting is not a new concept in India. Earlier, there was an option given to the voters to reject the candidate but for that they have to fill a form in which reason for rejection was also to be cited. However, Rule 49-O of Representation of the People Act, 1951 provides that this form was later to be checked by the poll booth officer, who would the take a decision whether to accept or reject the same. Thus it infringed the very idea of secrecy which is a fundamental part of any fair electoral process. Thus, the Hon’ble Supreme Court repealed Rule 49-O of the act.
In the recent assembly election of Gujrat, the power of NOTA was clearly demonstrated. In that election, a large number of people came out in support this option. It was seen as not only voting for none but also manifested as a mild punishment given to the ruling party without wanting the opposition to come to power. It shows dissatisfaction of the people in the political parties, but more satisfaction and faith of the people in the political process of the country (A Surya Prakash, 2018).
None of the Above (NOTA) is a great initiative to give voice to the disapproval of the people. In a fair and free democracy, dissent is also a right and political voice must be attributed to it, as without any political voice, no change can be brought to the circumstances of the country and of the people, people because in this inter-dependent world, each person is political. It is capable of paving the path for a systematic change in the society, and has the potential of being a caveat that political parties will have to take note of.
A Second Year B.A. LL.B. (Hons.) student of National Law University, Delhi. Interested in Constitutional Law, International Law and ADR, he is an avid devotee of astronomical science, and yeah he enjoys good company too!