NONE OF THE ABOVE (NOTA) came into existence from 27 September 2013. The Supreme Court of India directed the Election Commission of India (ECI) to introduce the symbol for NOTA to be found at the last panel of all the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).[i] When a person wish to elect NOTA then it is very clear that the voter have not chosen any one of the party to vote in the election. Where this option which enables the right of the voter to reject all the candidates who appear in the election. The symbol of NOTA was designed within the period of five months by Professor Tarun Deep Girdher of National Institute of Design. NOTA first made available in the 2013 Assembly elections in Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
Before NOTA came into existence
Earlier the voters have to inform the presiding officer in the polling both to cast a negative vote. Under section 49(o) of the Conduct of Elections Rule, 1961; a voter could fill the form 17A and cast a negative vote.[ii] The officer make sure that it is been signed by the voter to prevent fraud and misuse of votes. It’s easy for the officers to find out the reason behind the people to cast a negative vote, but now the reason behind the rejection of candidates contesting the election can’t be found. Where the voters have to report to the presiding officer to cast a negative vote, now the voter need not approach the presiding officer in the polling both.
In PUCL v. Union of India,[iii] the constitutional validity of rules 41(2), (3) and 49-o of the Conduct of Elections rules, 1961. Violation of the right of secret balloting protected under Articles 19(1) (a) and 21 of the constitution. The major points been discussed is RIGHT TO VOTE which includes the right not to vote i.e. right to reject. People who do not wish to vote any of the listed candidates in the election then the voter can exercise the Right to reject, another point to be noted is RIGHT TO SECRECY where the voter to cast their vote without any fear of reprisal, duress or coercion under Article 21. Where the secrecy is been maintained then there can be free and fair elections. The Supreme Court of India declared it is as unconstitutional as it doesn’t protect the identity of the voter. NOTA have been introduced to protect the identity of the voters. The Supreme Court in this case introduced NOTA and declared the Right to vote included Right not to vote.
Impact on Elections
The officials of the Election Commission have stated that NOTA will not make any impact on the results of the election. Every citizen has the right to reject if they feel that the listed candidates do not deserve to be voted in the election. The Supreme Court said that NOTA can cleanse the political system. Even if NOTA get maximum number of vote in the election the candidate who secures the second position will win the election.[iv] For example there are totally 1000 votes in a constituency, even if NOTA gets 999 votes, the candidate who get 1 vote will be declared as winner in the election. The votes casted for NOTA are counted but they are considered to be invalid. Hence NOTA will not have any impact on the results of the election.
There are lot of proposals and debates been held about NOTA. The major decision is to conduct re-election if NOTA get the maximum number of votes in the election. The Election Commission have to make sure that the candidates who got lesser number of votes than NOTA not to be appeared in the re-election. If NOTA get the maximum number of votes then the candidates who secures the second position will be declared as winner in the election, but there is a proposal to be made only the candidate to declared as winner if the candidate get 50% + 1 vote in the election otherwise re-election to be conducted. On an average the NOTA got 2.7 lakh in 37 Assembly elections till 2017. Introduction of NOTA in electoral process is a good reform in right direction.
NOTA UK is an organisation to be formed in the year 2010 to add the option of NOTA in the ballot papers for the elections. In UK electoral process, all the votes to be counted and announced, including the negative votes. The rejected votes are categorised into four ways.[v] The ballot papers are rejected under each of the following headings
- Want of official mark
- Voting for more than one candidate
- Writing or mark by which the voter could be identified
- Unmarked or void for uncertainty
When the people are not satisfied with any of the candidates, then they could vote for NOTA. This encourages the people to reject all candidates. NOTA option has no electoral value in the EVMs.. Even if NOTA get the maximum number of votes, the candidate who gets the maximum number of remaining votes could be declared as winner. It is very clear that NOTA have no impact on the results of the election.
Edited by Pragash Boopal
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje
[iii] AIR 1997 SC 568