Inclusion of NOTA in the Indian electoral system

Right to reject a candidate forms a part of the fundamental right of speech and expression and NOTA option guarantees this right to the citizens across the world. The NOTA option stands for “None of the above”. The inclusion of NOTA option in the EVMs(Electronic voting machines) has brought about a fundamental change in the electoral system of India. NOTA brings about a big change in the election system in India, because of NOTA the political parties are under pressure to project clean and worthy candidates in the election. The citizens of India elect their representatives and these representatives form a government. Therefore, election in a democratic country like India is of utmost importance. NOTA is the landmark reform in the electoral system of India.

NOTA is among a series of efforts being made to give back power to the people in a democracy. It is an outcome of awakening of the Indian electorate brought about over a long period of time by new tools, mass movements and strengthened laws. The Supreme Court of India required that candidates of Political parties to disclose their criminal histories. In 2004 the NGO(non-governmental organization), People’s Union for Civil Liberties filed a Public Interest litigation calling for voters to be given the right to negative voting. The Supreme Court upheld the right of voters to reject all candidates contesting the elections. NOTA option is at the end of the candidates’ list in the EVMs(Electronic Voting Machines).  In earlier times, in order to cast a negative vote, a voter had to inform the presiding officer of the polling booth. More than 15 lakh people have already exercised this option in the states polls. However the figure was lower than 1.5% of the total voters.

The Right to vote in India

Several governments of democratic countries consider participating in national elections as a right of citizenship. In India however, the right to vote is provided by the Constitution and the Representation of People’s Act, 1951, which is subject to certain disqualifications.  Article 326 of the Constitution of India guarantees the right to vote to every citizen above 18 years of age. Furthermore, Section 62 of the Representation of Peoples Act, 1951 states, every person who is in the electoral roll of that constituency will be entitled to vote.

Therefore, the Constitution of India and the Representation of Peoples Act, 1951 make it clear that every person above 18 years of age, whose name is in the electoral rolls, and is not subject to any disqualification under the Act, may cast his vote. This is a form of non-discriminatory, voluntary system of voting.

Why was there a need of  NOTA in the Indian electoral System

In the Indian electoral system, every citizen of India has a right to participate in voting. There is no special educational qualification required to be Member of Parliament, because of which many criminals want to be involved in the election to misuse the powers that will be given to them once they win the election. According to the Vohra Committee Report politics established the politician-criminal nexus and recommend this menace be combated. The Vohra Committee Report stated as follow”

“The nexus between the criminal gangs, police, bureaucracy and politicians has come out clearly in various parts of the country” and that “some political leaders become the leaders of these gangs/armed seas and over the years get themselves elected to local bodies, State assemblies, and national parliament.” This point becomes self-evident, the number of elected representatives with pending criminal cases against them at all levels in our federal system. [1]

In the landmark case of Dinesh Trivedi, M.P v. Union of India[2],   Supreme Court agreed with N.N. Vohra Committee report and its implementation, which addressed the grave problem of the growing nexus amongst the politicians, bureaucrats and criminals and its effect on the civilized society. The Supreme court further held that an independent body should be formed to look into the matter and it should also be given necessary powers to investigate these matters and if possible establish special courts to take cognizance of such matters with the consent of Central government.

The many politicians involved in the criminal charges, who have yet not been convicted of the crimes and are free on bail is almost a third of all candidates in Bihar, as well as 27% of Congress candidates, 27% of BJP candidates, and 43% of ADMK candidates nationwide. During the previous elections, 162 MPs with criminal charges pending against them were elected (up from 128 in 2004), including 76 involved in “heinous offences such as rape, dacoity, and murder” (up from 58 in 2004). As per the report of the Association for Democratic Reforms 2004, 1158, or 15%, of all candidates contesting in the general election, had criminal charges pending against them.

State Analysis

The states with comparatively maximum percentage of None of the above includes: Meghalaya with 2.8 per cent votes (30,145), Gujarat 1.8 per cent (4, 54,880) Chhattisgarh 1.8 per cent (2, 24,889), Dadra and Nagar Haveli 1.8 per cent (2,962).

“The other states with comparatively higher percentage of NOTA includes: Bihar – 1.6 per cent (5,81,011), Odisha – 1.5 per cent (3,32,780) Mizoram – 1.5 per cent (6,495), Jharkhand – 1.5 per cent (1,90,927), Daman and Diu – 1.5 per cent (1,316), Sikkim 1.4 – per cent (4,332), Tamil Nadu – 1.4 per cent (5,82,062) Madhya Pradesh – 1.3 per cent (3,91,837), Among others are Tripura – 1.2 per cent (23,783), Kerala – 1.2 per cent (2,10,561), Goa – 1.2 per cent (10,103), Rajasthan – 1.2 per cent (3,27,902), Uttarakhand – 1.1 per cent (48,043), West Bengal – 1.1 per cent (5,68,276), Arunachal Pradesh – 1.1 percent(6,321).

[1] Vohra Committee Report (1993)

[2] Dinesh Trivedi M.P v. Union of India(1997) 4 SCC 306

Authored by Vishwaraj Panwar | Edited by Prerna Sharma

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