None of the above is a voting option provided for voters to indicate
their dissent and disapproval towards all the candidates in an election and to
choose no one out of them.It goes by different names in different democracies,
like the El Blanco in Spain Kotak Kosong in Indonesia and many others
proselytizing the idea of dissent along with fortifying their constitutional
right of voting without even choosing anyone.
The concept of NOTA or protest vote is not very primaeval, it's a fairly new
idea that is now becoming a very important tool towards saving and edifying the
ideas of disapproval, freedom of speech and expression, the right to choose and
other principal spirits of democracy. The protest vote was first used in the USA
in 1976 in Nevada, where None of These
was used as a ballot option.
India, a NOTA like feature dates back to 2009 when, in MP polls, almost 4000
voters under Section 49(O) of the conduct of election rules decided to register
their decision of not voting to any candidate but this had serious implications,
on their right to privacy, as their anonymity wasn't maintained. However, the
breakthrough came in 2013 when it was introduced by the Supreme court of India
through a landmark judgement in the People's Union for Civil Liberties vs
Union of India
case and India became one of the 13 countries to acknowledge
protest vote and negative voting and broadened the right to choose and freedom
of speech and expression.
The bench comprising of CJI P. Sathasivam and Justice Ranjana Desai and Ranjan
Gogoi said that "Giving right to a voter not to vote for any candidate while
protecting his right of secrecy is extremely important in a democracy. Such an
option gives the voter the right to express his disapproval with the kind of
candidates that are being put up by the political parties.
When the political parties realize that a large number of people are expressing
their disapproval with the candidates being put up by them, gradually there will
be a systemic change and the political parties will be forced to accept the will
of the people and field candidates who are known for their integrity." The
50-page judgement was a historical step in electoral reforms with an intention
to strengthen the pillars of democracy and bolster the sanctity of the festival
of democracy, the elections.
Since this judgement, the NOTA has come a long way from 1.08% in 2014 to 1.09%
in the 2019 general elections to almost double the number of voters choosing
NOTA in the Maharashtra State elections, i.e., 7,42,134 people, opting for NOTA against
4,60,741 people choosing it in 2014, the percentages and numbers may not be
impressive but are stepping stone towards the monumental change the people of
our country are optimistic about.
NOTA might be a very strong tool in shaping the electoral reforms, but at
present its power and scope is very limited, making it a bit not on par with the
negative voting system in other countries. Some experts also believe it to be
cosmetic and have also questioned whether it is even a real choice or not.
According to the Clause(A) of Rule 64 of the Conduct of Election Rules,1961 and
Section 65 of the RPA Act 1951 the candidate who has polled the highest number
of votes according to the first past the post system will be declared the
winner which means that out of 100 votes even if a candidate gets 1 vote out of
100 and rest all the votes are polled for NOTA the candidate will still be
declared the WINNER.
With all this said and done, the NOTA still maintains its sanctity and is a
historic achievement of the people of our country in getting our voices and
opinion heard and respected, but its more of the show and less of quality
nature will always be a matter of debate, which leaves us with the question
which we started it with 'is it just an armor for dissent or a weapon for
change?' still unanswered.
Suggested Articles on NOTA
What Is The Need Of NOTA And Why It Is Implemented In India
Electoral reforms in India: A desideratum
Electoral Reforms Towards Decriminalizing Politics
All About Vote And Voting Rights In India
Award Winning Article Is Written By: Mr.Sarthak Aswal
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