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The Right to Reject: Indian democracy’s new hot button

By Ajith Vijay Kumar | Last Updated: Friday, September 27, 2013 - 15:46

Zee Media Bureau/Ajith Vijay Kumar

The Supreme Court has once again lived up to its role as the guiding light for Indian democracy. By directing the Election Commission to introduce a new option in electronic voting machines (EVMs) for voters to reject all candidates, the apex court has brought in an important reform in our electoral system.

The historic judgement holds the potential to tectonically change the way elections are held in world’s largest democracy.

SC’s verdict – Important points

  • Voters will have the option to register a negative vote to select none among the options without comprising secrecy of vote.
  • Negative voting would lead to systemic change in polls and political parties will be forced to project clean candidates – SC
  • Negative voting would foster purity and vibrancy in elections – SC
  • Earlier, a voter who wished not to register his/her vote had to fill a form at the polling booth for the same. As the form would carry name and signature, the person’s fundamental right to secrecy of vote was compromised.
  • The Supreme Court observed that a distinction cannot be made between the right to vote and right not vote. The right to reject candidates is also a fundamental right of speech and expression under Constitution, the SC observed.
  • The right to choose ‘None Of The Above’ on the EVM is not a negative vote, it should be construed as a positive vote in a democracy.
  • What happens if the percentage of votes for ‘None Of The Above’ option is more than the votes polled by candidates? Today’s judgement is silent on this – the law will have to be amended.
  • Only the Parliament has the right to make amendments in the People’s Representation Act.
  • Given the Lokpal Bill experience, it remains to be seen whether political parties will see the SC verdict in positive light and work to clear the grey areas and ensure its speedy implementation.
  • While the SC judgement has addressed a fundamental flaw in the electoral system, will voters choose to stand in queue for hours just to register their negative vote remains to be seen.
  • First Published: Friday, September 27, 2013 - 13:24
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