NOTA option to stay in Rajya Sabha polls
The Supreme Court refused to stay an Election Commission circular that introduced NOTA in the Rajya Sabha elections. In the upcoming Rajya Sabha elections in Gujarat, The None Of The Above (NOTA) option will remain on ballot paper.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal who was appearing in the Supreme court for Congress chief whip in the Gujarat Assembly, submitted in court that NOTA would be a recipe for corruption.
Earlier judgment of the Supreme Court on NOTA:
- The Supreme Court judgment on NOTA repealed Section 49-O of Conduct of Election Rules, which allowed a voter to inform the presiding officer that he/she had decided not to vote, which was to be recorded accordingly
- In the same judgment, the Supreme Court also directed the Election Commission to make provisions for a NOTA vote on Electoral Voting Machines/ballot papers
- The judgment did not specify whether NOTA would be used in indirect elections (President, Vice-President, Rajya Sabha, Legislative Councils). But it said that NOTA should be implemented in “ballot papers” too
Issue with usage of NOTA in Rajya Sabha elections:
- Since the Rajya Sabha elections are held by single transferable vote, allowing for second and third preference votes on the same ballot, it does not use EVMs.
- Going by the logic that the SC wanted NOTA in ballot papers, and since the Rajya Sabha election uses ballot papers, the Election Commission assumed that NOTA would be applicable to the Rajya Sabha elections too.
- In an ideal scenario, the Supreme Court judgment should have been followed by amendments to The Representation of the Peoples Act and The Conduct of Election Rules giving statutory sanction to NOTA and the elections that it would be applicable to.
- But since there is still no amendment by Parliament, arbitrariness and adhocism persists. For instance, if NOTA is applicable to Rajya Sabha elections why was it not notified for the Presidential Elections?
- Considering that electors in Rajya Sabha have the option of abstaining from an election to make a political statement unlike voters in Lok Sabha and assembly elections, the utility of NOTA in the Rajya Sabha poll deserves to be debated.
- But Parliament with people’s representatives is the ideal forum for this debate and not the Election Commission or the Supreme Court.