NOTA option: the thing to look forward to

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By Tinky Ningombam

The Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of India P. Sathasivam made a historic announcement on Friday. Under the order, the SC has asked the Election Commission to give voters the NOTA (None of the above) choice while voting. NOTA or Negative Voting or Null Voting is a rule for voters to pick the rejection option from the nominated list of candidates in an election. The NOTA is to be introduced in the November Assembly Elections in the five states: Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram.

According to The Indian constitution, as per the 1969 act, in section “49-O” a person can go to the polling booth, confirm his/her identity and convey to the presiding election officer that he/she doesn’t want to vote anyone. This declaration to the presiding officers was not effective as the citizen had to express their dissent of the contesting candidates to them. Hence, instead of the voters using the secret ballot, they ends up declaring it before the election officer.

So this is in-fact a welcome news for right minded citizens to finally come out to vote their dissent of the incompetency of the nominated candidates. This will also make the political parties be careful about the kind of candidates they nominate. But one of the hiccups that seem to be there is that there is no provision to count the rejection votes. Some activists have suggested that there should be a count of the rejection votes and if it reaches and exceeds 50% then there should be a re-election in the constituency.

But it is no doubt is a progressive act. It is also notable that the Centre has opposed the proposal stating that an election is for people to elect candidates and not to reject and that it can confuse the voters. But as far as the SC court ruling stands, it has expressed that “Not allowing a person to cast vote negatively defeats the very freedom of expression and the right ensured in Article 21, i.e., the right to liberty.” The court also noted that at least 13 other countries in the world follow the practice.

Though much of the voting systems in small town constituencies and under-developed states are quite flawed, this will be a good step in the process of tackling political incompetency. Being in the habit of choosing the lesser evil most of the times in elections, this will finally help more people come out to cast their votes and voice their opinion.

My next wishful development is a well-oiled online voting system for our State. This will not only allow young voters to vote for their constituencies from far flung places but also allow people to be more aware of their citizen responsibility. For people like us who cannot afford to travel to exercise our right to vote, this will ensure that college-educated and professionals who comprise a considerable section of the society can share the responsibility that they have absconded from for the longest time.

This is definitely an interesting time for the political scenario. With the frustration of many of our citizens with corruption and the political systems, the SC has been taking other considerable actions to clean up the electoral system. Under a recent ruling, politicians who concealed their personal information from the nomination papers are barred from contesting elections. This is a much needed step as most of the politicians have time and again been involved with frauds and scams or sometimes have a criminal past.

All these definitely will not lead to an over-night change in the political systems of the country but it is definitely a step in the right direction.

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