I mean to diminish no individual, no society, no association in the Indian history, when I say that India is valued all around the world for many great things, but for three over all others: The Taj Mahal, Mahatma Gandhi and India’s democracy”.- Gopalkrishna Gandhi [1]

This quote speaks about the importance of democracy and purity in the election process. It is trite to say that fair, unbiased electoral process and citizen participation is fundamental in safeguarding the real value of democracy in India. Thus, the most essential feature of a democratic polity is to have elections at regular interval. Elections in it constitute the signpost and willingness of the citizen. Democracy is like a prism which reflects the values, beliefs of the citizens towards the political environment. Elections are the symbol of sovereignty of the people which provide authority and legitimacy to the government.[2] India has been distinguished for being the largest democracy in the world. Elections have been considered as the most important and integral part of the politics in a democratic system of governance. Politics has been considered as an art of dealing and practicing political power. Democracy, the word engraved in the Preamble can only be realized if the elections are fair and not rigged and manipulated by illegal means and instruments. Over the years Election Commission of India has conducted number of electoral reforms to strengthen the democracy and in order to enhance the fairness in elections. The reforms were quite good and were adequate. One of the reforms that the Election Commission opted was to have the option of NOTA (None of the above)[3]. NOTA is considered as powerful device in the hands of the voters who if dissatisfied with the quality of the candidates may choose the option of NOTA. NOTA is considered a step forward taken by the Election Commission of India to achieve the ends of democracy. Introduction of NOTA has been hailed as the spectacular step in order to achieve the true and real spirit of democracy. However whether NOTA can be described as one of the greatest electoral reforms still remains uncertain as NOTA is simple right to reject the candidates. Giving citizens of the India the right to reject will involve two fold purposes of the candidates of the Political parties with clean background as well inducing citizens to cast their vote. The landmark decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Public Union Civil liberties v. Union of India is like a watershed judgment that has changed the electoral process in India.

“It needs a little argument to hold that the heart of the Parliamentary system is free and fair elections periodically held, based on the adult franchise although social and economy democracy demands much more.[4]


The former Chief Election Commissioner S. Y Qureshi point out that NOTA is not same as the right to reject. He clarified the situation by giving an example, that where 99 votes had been cast in favour of NOTA, out of total who got one vote out of 100 would be declared as winner for obtaining most number of valid votes.[5] The Election Commission of India have given clarifications to the said example and said that no re elections will be called on the basis of Rule 64(a) of the Election Rules and Sections 53(2) and Section 65[6] of the Representation of People’s Act because with the introduction of NOTA it would apparently ensure the secrecy to the voter casting negative votes and to prevent the bogus vote in their place, the right to reject would not figure out in their original demands. This is evident from the Court’s judgement that in terms of its emphasis on secrecy described in the words of NOTA it would eventually pressurises party to have sound and honest candidates.


NOTA polling usage is still small in India. On an average, NOTA vote share has not crossed 2.02% of total votes polled in electronic cycle. The perceived cynicism of Indian voters against the political class thus seems too exaggerated. However the patterns of voting in the recent years had shown the increased pattern of NOTA in the recent years.

  • In the state Assembly elections held in the four states namely Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Mizoram, the total votes cast in favour of NOTA was about 1.85%.
  • Whereas in the Assembly Elections in Delhi and Bihar, the average votes cast in favour of NOTA was about 2.02%.
  • On the basis of stats and records available one can argue that NOTA had made wider difference to the elections assuming that in the absence of NOTA voters would have preferred one or more candidates in fray.


The Election Commission supported the idea of the NOTA option in electronic voting machines. The Election Commission has always tried to maintain that

  • For promoting the larger interest in a democratic country NOTA button must be made available in ballot papers and Electronic voting machines.
  • Such action will provide the opportunity to the elector to express his/her satisfaction or dissatisfaction against the candidates and will reduce in bogus voting.
  • Under Section 79(d) the electoral right includes right not to cast vote.
  • The votes cast in favour of NOTA will be recorded in the result sheet of all the candidates.


The indication of NOTA clearly indicates the option of right to reject. The right to reject simply means that the citizens have a right not only to express their abstinence from voting but also that if the majority of the citizens have abstained from voting then fresh elections will have to be held. Thus this is the true spirit of NOTA and the same purports in NOTA. The political scenario is totally different in India as right to reject is concerned. The Supreme Court has expressly stated that the introduction does not involve a right to reject, but it simply registers itself as a negative opinion. Thus, it is personally opined that the NOTA in India is the greatest misgiving as the entire purpose and advantage of NOTA is taken away by the fact that irrespective of the number of citizens who have favoured their vote in favour of NOTA in the electronic voting machines, the candidate even with the marginal majority of votes continues to win the election.


[2] Apurva Prabhakar, “NOTA in INDIA” Published in the International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Invention, ISSN (Online): 2319 – 7722, ISSN (Print): 2319 – 7714  accessed on January 29th 2019 at 8:00 AM.

[3]Dr. K. Eswara Reddy, “Electoral Reform In India” accessed on January 30th 2019 at 10:00 AM.

[4] Mohinder Singh Gill v. Chief Election Commissioner, (1978) 1 SCC 405, 424, at para 23

[5]S.Y. Qureshi, “Pressure of a Button, INDIAN EXPRESS”, 3rd October 2013, accessed on 10 February 2019.

[6]  ECI, Supreme Court’s judgment for “None of the Above” option on EVM– clarification, No. ECI/PN/48/2013 dated 28.10.2013,  accessed on February 10, 2019 at 10:00 AM.

Pranav Kaushal

Pranav Kumar Kaushal, Content Writter, Law Corner, Student B.A., LLB 7th Semester, School of Law, Bahra University, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh.

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