Right Of Not To Vote (NOTA)

In every Democratic country, there is the provision of Right to vote as a fundamental Right in which people of a nation choose or select their representative to govern their country or society and if they do not like to choose their representative then they have also right to not to vote or NOTA. India is the largest democracy in the whole world, India became a democratic nation in the year of 1947 and from that, we got the right to choose our representative through the election in democratic India. The Parliamentary & state assembly elections are conducted every 5 years to elect the central and state governments.

NOTA means “None Of The Above” is an option which is used by voters during any elections to officially register a vote of rejection for all the candidates who have nominated for the election. It was landmark 2013 supreme court judgment- The People’s Union for Civil Liberties v. Union Of India case – which introduce the NOTA. since 2013, the polling figures for NOTA have remained nominal. The 2015 Assembly elections in Bihar saw 2.49% of the votes polled under NOTA, which was shown the highest share in any assembly elections.

Right to vote as well as right not to vote have been statutorily recognized under section- 79(d) of the RP Act and rules 41(2) & (3) and 49-O of the rules. In India, elections traditionally have been held with ballot papers. The Law Commission of India, in its 170th report related to the reform of the electoral Laws, recommended for the implementation of the concept of the negative vote and also pointed out its advantages. In India, elections traditionally have been held with ballot papers. As explained by the election commission, from 1998 onwards, the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) were introduced on a large scale. Formerly, under the ballots paper system, it was possible to secretly cast a vote neutral or negatively by going to the polling booth. The Supreme Court directed the Election Commission to provide necessary provision in the ballot papers/ EVMs and another button called “None of the Above” (NOTA) may be provided in EVMs so that the voters, who come to the polling booth and decide not to vote while maintaining their right of secrecy.

Democracy being the basic feature of our constitutional set up, there can be no two options that free and fair elections would alone guarantee the growth of a healthy democracy in the country. The fair denotes equal opportunity to all the people. For democracy to survive, it is essential that the best available men should be chosen as people’s representatives 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 in a vibrant democracy, the voter must be given an opportunity to choose none of the NOTA button, which will indeed compel the political parties to nominate a sound candidate.

This situation tells that the dire need for negative voting. No doubt, the right to vote is a statutory right but it is equally vital to recollect that statutory right is the essence of democracy. Without which democracy will fail to thrive. By providing the NOTA button in the EVMs, it will accelerate the effective political participation in the present state of the democratic system and the voters, in fact, will be empowered. Protection of elector’s identity and affording secrecy is therefore integral to free and fair elections and an arbitrary distinction between the voter who casts his vote and the voter who does not cast his vote is violative of Article 14 of the Indian constitution.

In Madhya Pradesh Polls, NOTA gets more votes than winners in 22 seats of theirs. According to 2018 Madhya Pradesh election, the 542295 voters pressed the button of NOTA on EVMs, which was 1.4% of the total number of votes cast. In the Assembly election in Gujarat, there were 21 seats in which the votes polled by NOTA were more than the margin between the first two candidates. Of these, there were 12 seats where the BJP’s margin of defeat was less than NOTA.

India entered the NOTA age as there were in 2013, after the supreme court’s judgment in which it was directed to the election commission of India to add the NOTA button to the EVMs. Since then, NOTA has come into vague in elections in the country, but its impact was significant in Gujarat 2017 and Madhya Pradesh 2018.

As per the recent news from a newspaper of 24th may 2019, that the lakhs of voters opted for NOTA button during the seventh phase Lok Sabha in Bihar. Sources at the state election office said that 499957 voters have pressed the button of NOTA.

Pushkar Pushp

Content Writer, Law Corner, 4th Year, B.Sc. LL.B, Central University of South Bihar.

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