SC Judgment on None of the Above: A Giant Step for Indian Democracy: PUCL

PUCL demands that EC implement None of the Above provision in 2013 State Assembly Elections in Rajasthan, MP, Chhattisgarh and Delhi
PUCL demands that EC implement None of the Above provision in 2013 State Assembly Elections in Rajasthan, MP, Chhattisgarh and Delhi

New Delhi: The PUCL welcomes the judgment of the Supreme Court of India in the case of “PUCL vs Union of India”, in which the Supreme Court has upheld the citizen’s right `not to vote’ as a “mechanism of negative voting that serves a very fundamental and essential part of a vibrant democracy”. The direction of the Supreme Court to the Election Commission to include in the Electronic Voting Machine (EVMs) a button for NOTA – “NONE OF THE ABOVE” – for all future elections is a step not too late.

The Supreme Court agreed with PUCL’s contention that the prevailing system u/Rule 41(2), (3) and Rule 49(O) of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 are violative of the citizen’s right to secrecy as provided u/s 128 of the Representation of People Act and Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India. In effect the SC accepted PUCL’s position that the voter has a right to indicate their dissatisfaction against all the candidates in secrecy. The Court pointed out that “secrecy in casting vote is necessary for strengthening democracy”.

The inclusion of a NOTA button will ensure participation of voters who are frustrated with all the candidates. The SC has rightly pointed out that NOTA “will accelerate the effective political participation in the present state if democratic system and the voter will, in fact, be empowered”. The SC also points out that this will prevent bogus voting.

The apex court points out that the political parties will realise that when a large number of people express their disapproval through NOTA, “there will gradually be 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”.

PUCL believes that this decision, alongwith the decision of the SC in another PUCL PIL, “PUCL vs Union of India, (2003 (4) SCC 399)” which made it mandatory for all candidates to file affidavits indicating their assets as also criminal cases against them, along with a series of other landmark decisions relating to electoral reforms would lead to greater probity in public life and would help in creating a more vibrant and engaged democratic setup. It would also encourage greater participation in democratic processes and would help in keeping unscrupulous elements out of the electoral fray.

PUCL appeals to all political parties to see this judgment as sign of changing times, reflecting the aspirations of the Indian citizenry and hopes that all parties will make constant efforts to field ‘clean’ candidates in order to de-criminalize politics.

PUCL calls upon the Government of India and the Election Commission to include NOTA buttons in the EVMs to be used in the upcoming elections to state assemblies of Rajasthan, MP, Chhattisgarh and Delhi which are scheduled to be held in the next 2-3 months.

Issued on 28.09.2013