The introduction of NOTA in India has been hailed by many to be a spectacular step towards capturing the true spirit of democracy. However, whether NOTA can be described as an electoral renaissance still remains uncertain as NOTA is simple a right to register a negative opinion and not a right to reject. Giving citizens the right to reject will ensure the two-fold purpose of candidates with a clean background as well as inducing citizens to cast their vote. The right purpose of a democracy is to choose a leader you deem fit to run the constituency. For the first time voters, it is an incentive to go ahead and express their opinion regardless of the fact that they opted for ‘None of The Above’ better than not voting. The Supreme Court, upheld in “People‘s Union for Civil Liberties v. The Union of India” that the right of voters to reject all candidates contesting the elections, saying it would go a long way in cleansing the political system of the country. The apex court directed the Election Commission to have an option of ‘None of The Above’ (NOTA) on the electronic voting machines (EVM) and ballot papers. EVMs have the NOTA option at the end of the candidates’ list.
Before the NOTA option came in existence, people casting negative votes were required to enter their names in a register and cast their vote on a separate paper ballot. Under Section 49 (O) of the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961, a voter could enter his electoral serial number in Form 17A and cast a negative vote. The presiding officer would then put a remark in the form and get it signed by the voter. This was done to prevent fraud or misuse of votes.
This provision was, however, deemed unconstitutional by the SC as it did not protect the identity of the voter. The SC said negative voting would even encourage people who are not satisfied with any of the candidates to turn up to express their opinion and reject all contestants.
“Negative voting will lead to a systemic change in polls and political parties will be forced to project clean candidates. If the right to vote is a statutory right, then the right to reject a candidate is a fundamental right of speech and expression under the Constitution,” said a bench headed by then Chief Justice of India, P Sathasivam. The bench also pointed out that the system of negative voting existed in several other countries. Even in Parliament, the MPs have the option to abstain from a vote. The Section 49 (O) stood annulled after the SC cleared the NOTA provision. It gave the poll officials a chance to find out the reason behind the rejection of a candidate through the voter’s remarks in Form 17A. Through NOTA, the officials cannot find out the reason for the rejection. Moreover, it protects the identity of a voter, thus keeping the concept of secret balloting intact.
The NOTA option was first used in India in the assembly elections held in five states last year. The NOTA was first made available to voters during the assembly polls held in Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram and this time it will be available all over the country. Under the NOTA facility, a button will be provided in the EVM after the name of the last candidate in the list where the electors will have the option of not voting for anyone in the fray. Sampath added that the EC’s experiment with paper trail during assembly polls in Nagaland and Mizoram has “enthused” it and “we have asked for 20,000 such EVMs. We will deploy them in as many constituencies as we can.”
More than 1.5 million people exercised the option in the state’s polls. The figure, however, was lower than 1.5% of the total voters. NOTA option would not impact the results of the elections. Colombia, Ukraine, Brazil, Bangladesh, Finland, Spain, Sweden, Chile, France, Belgium, and Greece allow their voters to cast NOTA votes. The Greeks have the ‘white’ option on their ballot; the US State of Nevada has ‘None of these candidates’. Spain and Columbia have the Voto en Blanco. Russia abolished it in 2006. Bangladesh introduced it in 2008.
On the actual use of NOTA, there was to give privacy to the voter who does not want to vote for any of the candidates in his constituency. When ballot papers were used for voting, voters would put “a blank slip into the ballot box, some would deliberately spoil the ballot by stamping it in more than one place or write they are all thieves”. “All these amounted to invalid votes. These were counted but did not have an impact on the result.”
But after EVMs came in 1998, that secrecy or the chance to invalid votes was taken away “since the pressing of a button is accompanied by a loud beep, audible in the entire polling booth and even outside. No beep would mean non-voting and everyone would know. This not only violated the voter’s secrecy but also made him vulnerable to reprisals.” The court order also upheld negative voting. “A voter may refrain from voting for several reasons, including the reason that he does not consider any of the candidates worthy of his vote.
One of the ways of such expression may be to abstain from voting by not turning up at all, which is not an ideal option for a conscientious and responsible citizen. Thus, the only way by which it may be made effectual is by providing a button in the EVMs to express that right. This is the basic requirement if the lasting values of a healthy democracy have to be sustained, which the Election Commission has not only recognized but also asserted.”Voters in conflict areas such as North Eastern regions, Maoist-dominated areas, and Indian-administered Kashmir can use NOTA to highlight their plights and miseries. Democracy has to move ahead with Right to Reject, Right to Recall. The NOTA option is a beginning.
Need of NOTA
We are living in the world’s largest democracy; true to the meaning of democracy NOTA will increase the participation of people in polls. People will be able to express their choice, votes to NOTA will make contenders think, what actually the people are looking for. More importantly, the political parties would project the right and clear candidates. When we attempt objective type question what we do if all the answers are incorrect.We choose “None of the above” then in an election if all the candidates are wicked then why we have no option to discard all and to choose the option None of the Above -NOTA. It is sure it will lead to a shift in the political scenario of our nation.
NOTA is a good option introduced in the elections. Many times MLA get the seat which they don’t deserve by some faulty means and then people has to choose among the false one. By introductions of NOTA if no Candidate is eligible we can simply elect NOTA and can remove them for years. NOTA enable people to use their vote to show that the current candidates, parties, and politics don’t have their support. Voting BLANK is important as something citizens can do, that is always possible, even when the government doesn’t want to include ‘None of the above’ on the ballot paper.
Positive Impact of NOTA
If in the opinion of the voter ‘None of the above’ stated contenders are capable of running for the cause of the common man a voter can refuse to vote for them. Not out of compulsion should he vote for a contender who he thinks isn’t good enough. If you do not vote just because there is no good candidate, at least you can show your dissent with the option of NOTA.The political parties will think before fielding a candidate. This will definitely be the small step towards the vibrant and robust democracy where the actual choice of the people will make a difference.
Negative Impact of NOTA
No proper procedure is defined if NOTA win. The option of NOTA was inserted in the Indian Context with a view that it shames the politicians and will disqualify them and fresh elections will take place. But this is not so. The SC of India made it clear that even if NOTA win then also the party with second highest votes will be declared as the winner. There will be no re-election. Hence as there is an absence of a proper mechanism, this cannot be regarded as a proper solution to the problem we are facing in the world’s largest democracy!!The new provision does not mean that all candidates in a constituency stand rejected or defeated if the number of NOTA votes exceeds the number garnered by the highest vote-getter.”Even if there are 99 NOTA votes out of a total of 100, and candidate X gets just one vote, X is the winner, having obtained the only valid vote. The rest will be treated as invalid or ‘no votes’,”.
According to me, NOTA will not at all be effective until there are some amendments made in this law, like having re-voting with new candidates when majority go with NOTA. Otherwise, Nota is of no use as we all know that if NOTA gets the majority then the party either second highest majority wins the elections, so it will not do the needful.
Today people consider NOTA as a waste option since there are going to be a winner. But if NOTA regarded laws are amended then people will surely start to acknowledge it and then even if the party people won’t like to do people welfare related works, they simply will have to because the people have the Power and I have heard many people saying that, why should I vote for candidates of different political parties as they all are corrupt and none of these politicians are doing their business for what they are being selected by the people and NOTA is nothing but an answer to this question. It is not only the way towards smoother democracy but also visualize the actual political situation of a country. It’s nothing but providing a tough competition between the leaders of different parties because if they want a vote, they have to do something.
NOTA will help our country to make corruption free but at the same time, it will hamper our economy because as we know that a lot of money is spent on conducting a single election. So it is our responsibility to promote good people in politics. It is because of our irresponsibility that bad people are coming in politics. In my opinion few cases NOTA is good and few cases NOTA is bad because if you see them. In politics, so many elected people don’t have knowledge about studying but he is an education minister. In these cases, NOTA is used.