None Of The Above (NOTA)

Context: A petition has been moved in the Supreme Court seeking directions to the Election Commission of India to use its plenary power conferred under Article 324 of the Constitution to nullify the election results and hold a fresh election if maximum votes have been polled in favour of NOTA (none of the above) in a particular constituency.

  • The plea also sought directions to restrict the candidates, who have participated in the invalidated election, from taking part in the fresh election to be held in the particular constituency.

Analysis

What is NOTA?

  • This was introduced to give voters a right to reject the candidates put up by the political parties.
  • Electronic voting machines (EVM) in India have the ‘None Of The Above (NOTA) button at the bottom of the list of candidates.
  • None of the Above (NOTA) option also has a symbol to facilitate the voter to exercise the NOTA option.
  1. A candidate belonging to a particular political party fights on the party’s symbol.
  2. An independent candidate fights on the symbol allotted to him by the Election Commission of India.
  • The NOTA option is meant only for universal adult suffrage and direct elections.
  1. The option is available to the public only during Lok Sabha, State Assembly and Panchayat and Municipal body elections.
  2. Implementing the Supreme Court order, the Election Commission of India (ECI) withdrew the provision of None Of The Above (NOTA) from elections to Rajya Sabha and Legislative Council in states.

How is a NOTA vote cast?

  • The EVMs have the NOTA option at the end of the candidates’ list.
  • Earlier, in order to cast a negative ballot, a voter had to inform the presiding officer at the polling booth.
  • A NOTA vote doesn’t require the involvement of the presiding officer.

When was NOTA first used in India?

  • The EC, on the directions of the SC, introduced the NOTA option for the first time in the 2013 Assembly elections of Chhattisgarh, Mizoram, Rajasthan, Delhi and Madhya Pradesh.
  • In 2014, the EC introduced the option in the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha elections.

There was a similar provision before NOTA. What was it?

  • The voters had the right of choosing none of the contesting candidates earlier as well. But before the introduction of NOTA, a voter had to inform the polling officer of her decision, as per Rule 49 O of the Representation of People’s Act. The polling officer would then record her vote in Form 17 and take the signature or thumb impression of the voter.
  • This provision went against the basic principle of secret voting as practised in India, according to Section 128 of the Representation of People’s Act. The voter’s choice of not voting for any of the candidates could not be kept secret as the ballot paper bearing her name and signature would be enumerated along with the counting of other votes. NOTA restored secret ballot in election.

How are 49(O) and NOTA different?

  • 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.

What difference does NOTA make?

  • The NOTA option cannot impact the results of the elections.
  • The NOTA option on EVMs has no electoral value.
  • Even if the maximum number of votes cast is for NOTA, the candidate getting the most of the remaining votes would be declared the winner.
  • NOTA votes are treated as invalid or no votes.
  • It is not a negative vote, but a neutral one that records a voter’s rejection of candidates.
  • In the recent past, State Election Commissions in Maharashtra and Haryana ruled that fresh polls would be held if more votes were cast for NOTA. But this was restricted to municipal and panchayat elections and it’s not clear if this would stand up to legal scrutiny.

Red Alert Constituencies

  • These are those which have 3 or more candidates with criminal cases contesting elections.

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