NEW DELHI: Stressing that the process of elections must remain unsullied so that the citadel of democracy stands tall as an impregnable bulwark against unscrupulous forces, the Supreme Court on Tuesday said that the None of the Above (NOTA) option would not be applicable as a ballot option in Rajya Sabha polls and ruled that it was to be used only for direct elections.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra set aside the Election Commission’s notification allowing the NOTA option in the ballot papers for Rajya Sabha polls and said, “The introduction of NOTA in indirect elections may on a first glance tempt the intellect, but on keen scrutiny it falls to the ground, for it completely ignores the role of an elector in such an election and fully destroys the democratic value.”
“The purity of democracy does not withstand anything that has the potential to create an incurable chasm in the backbone of a democratic set-up. The law is meant to eradicate the same. When one analyses the exercise of choice of NOTA in the voting process of the Council of States where open ballot is permissible and secrecy of voting has no room, and further, where party/parties matters, it is clear that such a choice will have a negative impact,” the order said.
The apex court also questioned the poll panel’s notification and said that NOTA was meant to be exercised by individual voters in direct polls, and added, “It can be said without a speck of doubt that the decision taken by the Election Commission as regards the introduction of NOTA in the election of the members to the Council of States also runs counter to what has been stated. NOTA will destroy the concept of value of a vote and representation and encourage defection that shall open the doors for corruption, which is a malignant disorder.”
During the hearing, the Centre had supported a petition filed by Gujarat Congress leader Shailesh Manubhai Parmar against use of the NOTA option in Rajya Sabha polls, but the poll panel had opposed it, saying that a member’s right to vote included the right to not votes.During the arguments, Attorney General K K Venugopal had said that NOTA could be applied only in direct elections and there were practical difficulties in using it in indirect elections.Parmar was the Congress chief whip of the Gujarat Assembly during the last Rajya Sabha election, in which the party had fielded sitting MP Ahmed Patel.
Not a right to reject
The NOTA option was introduced in India following a 2013 Supreme Court directive. However, NOTA in India is not a ‘right to reject’. The candidate with the maximum votes wins the election irrespective of the number of NOTA votes polled.