Educate masses on NOTA for systemic change in polls: SC to EC

SC directed EC to undertake awareness programmes on the benefits of negative voting.

Updated: Sep 27, 2013, 22:32 PM IST

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Election Commission (EC) to undertake awareness programmes on the benefits of negative voting saying there will be a "systemic change" when people start to express their disapproval of candidates.

The court also said that making people aware about this option of "None of the above (NOTA)" in electronic voting machines and ballot papers would enable dissatisfied voters to turn up to express their view, preventing proxy voting undertaken by "unscrupulous elements" who impersonate them.

"We direct the Election Commission to undertake awareness programmes to educate the masses (about NOTA)," a bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam said.

"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 will realise 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 bench also comprising justices Ranjana Prakash Desai and Ranjan Gogoi said.

"The direction can also be supported by the fact that in the existing system a dissatisfied voter ordinarily does not turn up for voting which in turn provides a chance to unscrupulous elements to impersonate the dissatisfied voter and cast a vote, be it a negative one.

"Furthermore, a provision of negative voting would be in the interest of promoting democracy as it would send clear signals to political parties and their candidates as to what the electorate think about them," the bench said.