Implementing NOTA in the right spirit
Mains Paper 2: Polity
Prelims level: NOTA
Mains level: Impacts of NOTA in Indian political system
- The number of NOTA votes exceeded the number of votes polled by any of the candidates, the candidate with the highest number of votes would be declared winner.
- This, it said, was in accordance with Rule 64 of the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961.
- This provision made the NOTA option almost redundant.
- While it ensured confidentiality for a voter who did not want to choose any of the candidates and yet wished to exercise her franchise.
- The provision clarified that a NOTA vote would not have any impact on the election result, which is what interests candidates, political parties, and voters.
- After this, candidates began campaigning against NOTA, telling voters that choosing the option meant wasting a vote.
What the court intended
- The ECI seemed to have completely overlooked the spirit of the judgment, illustrated in the following excerpts.
- “For democracy to survive, it is essential that the best available men should be chosen as people’s representatives.
- 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 NOTA..., which will... compel the political parties to nominate a sound candidate (emphasis added).
Two reasoned orders
- The State Election Commission (SEC) of Maharashtra was the first to understand the spirit of the judgment. It issued a reasoned order on June 13 saying.
- If it is noticed while counting, that NOTA has received highest number of valid votes, then the said election for that particular seat shall be countermanded and fresh elections shall be held for such post.
- This was commendable, but it stopped short of giving NOTA the teeth that the court wanted.
- It meant that the same candidates could contest the new election, which meant that the result could be the same as earlier.
- The two SECs are within the ambit of the Constitution and various Supreme Court judgments to issue these orders for various reasons.
- They have powers identical to the ECI for elections that take place in their jurisdictions.
- They have plenary powers to issue directions in areas related to the conduct of elections where there is no specific legislation, till such time as Parliament or the State Assembly enacts such legislation; and there is no specific legislation pertaining to NOTA.
- The two SECs showing the way, the remaining SECs and the ECI should follow suit so that political parties are compelled to nominate sound candidates, and are forced to accept the will of the people, as desired by the highest court in the land.
UPSC Prelims Questions:
Q.1) Consider the following statements about local selfgovernment in India.
1. It is constitutionally mandatory to hold regular elections to local government bodies.
2. An independent institution, State Election Commission, has been created in each State to conduct panchayat and municipal elections.
Which of the above is/are correct?
a) 1 only
b) 2 only
c) Both 1 and 2
Correct Answer: C
UPSC Mains Questions:
Q.1) Discuss the role of NOTA in Indian election system. How it can be improved further?