Right to reject, recall may not work in India: CEC

The inclusion of right to reject proposal in voting could be misused to put out an unintended political message, said Qureshi.

New Delhi: Amid a campaign by Team Anna for
polls reforms, the Election Commission has disfavoured any
proposal to include the `Right to Reject` or `Right to Recall`
clauses in election rules, saying they may not work in a large
country like India.

Opposing the proposal to have a `Right to Recall` as in
many developed countries, Chief Election Commission SY Qureshi has held that it will "destabilise" the country,
especially in areas where "people already feel alienated".

On the proposal of introducing a clause on Right to
Reject, Qureshi said even though the EC has supported
introduction of 49-O (rule) button in EVMs for voters to
express their displeasure over candidates, the proposal will
lead to more frequent elections.

49-O rule of The Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961
describes the procedure to be followed when a valid voter
decides not to cast his vote, and decides to record this fact.

"Our main fear is that if we start rejecting all the
candidates, we will have another election and people already
complain of election fatigue," Qureshi told a programme in an interview.
The CEC, is however, open to discussion with activist Anna
Hazare who has suggested that if all candidates spending
crores in elections are rejected by the voters, it will
discourage them from overspending and would control election

"We have an open mind on this. If a proposal leads to that
larger good, then we must consider it. I would like to discuss
this interesting point and see what are its implications,"
said Qureshi, disclosing that he has scheduled a meeting with
Hazare later this month on the issue.

The inclusion of right to reject proposal in voting, said
Qureshi, could be misused to put out an unintended political
message, especially in places like Kashmir and North-Eastern
states where people already feel alienated.

"We have to see the implication of everything for the
country," said the CEC advocating 49-O button in EVMs instead,
which helps voters express their unhappiness over the

He said, "Instead of a negative force of right to reject,
who don`t you select a good candidate instead."
The CEC said the Commission had recommended for having
49-O button in EVMs to guard the privacy of voters.

"Because if you do not go to vote, one could be intimidated. Secondly,
somebody may go in your place to vote instead of you. To guard
against this, we have suggested having 49-O button," Qureshi

He clarified that the button did not imply or mean the
right to reject. "It will only mean that you will be able to
express your opinion against a candidate. It will not count in
your votes."

On the right to recall proposal, the Chief Election
Commissioner said, "It is not possible at all in India, which
is a large country. It is there in smaller countries like
Switzerland. It can be there in a panchayat election, but not
in bigger elections."

He said, "Every loser will start the right to reject from
the day he loses", and suggested that voter education as a
good solution to it.

"We can instead educate the voters to come out in large
numbers and vote for a good candidate."

Talking about electoral reforms, the CEC said it has
sought debarring such tainted candidates, who have serious
criminal cases pending against them and where the court has
already framed charges against them, in a bid to cleanse the

He admitted that all political parties had opposed the
proposal of debarring such candidates, saying false cases are
often framed against politicians.

"We are only saying that at least those candidates be
debarred who have serious charges like rape, kidnapping,
murder and dacoity against them which would lead to
imprisonment of more than five years and cases against whom
are pending for more than six months prior to elections and
against whom charges have already been framed by the court,"
said Qureshi.

On the point that many innocents will be denied the right
to contest polls, the CEC said, "The larger public good is
better than individual good."

He supported his viewpoint by saying that the right to
contest was not even a fundamental right, but the government
was denying four fundamental rights to inmates of prisons, as
70 per cent of them were undertrials.

"Are you not denying the right to freedom, right to
dignity, freedom of movement and freedom of occupation to most
inmates lodged in jails that are yet to be convicted and may be
innocent," he countered, stating that "I hope the government
is very seriously considering a proposal to debar candidates
with heinous crimes pending against them."

The CEC also sought more direct powers to derecognise
political parties for violation of guidelines in order to have
tighter control on electoral system and help bring in
inner-party democracy in political parties, besides
appointment of ECs through a collegium to enhance the
credibility of the Election Commission.

He favoured making Election Commission a more powerful and
stronger body by providing protection to the two other members
of EC on the lines provided to CEC.

He favoured the senior-most EC automatically becoming the
CEC on his retirement, besides providing it with budget that
is charged directly to the Consolidated Fund of India and
providing it with powers to have an independent secretariat
like that of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.


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