Mumbai voters exercise their right to vote NOTA

The Times of Indiareported that in the 2019 Maharashtra Assembly elections, nearly 1.45 lakh of Mumbai voters opted for the NOTA (None of the Above) option. That is a 113% increase from the NOTA votes made in the 2014 elections.

Image result for Mumbai voters exercise their right to vote NOTA"
Image Courtesy:

The NOTA option is a type of protest vote. The right to vote is considered to be an extension of the Indian citizen’s freedom of expression under Article 19(1)(a). It follows that the NOTA option offersthe voter to express discontent with the candidates standingin their constituency.

The Times noted that this sharp rise can be attributed to civil frustration caused by issues such the Aarey dispute and the Punjab & Maharashtra Co-operative Bank collapse.The Borivali constituency, in particular, received 10,081 votes in favour of NOTA.

This trend was also noted in other constituencies all over Maharashtra. In Latur (Rural), but the second highest number of votes went to NOTA with 27,287 votes. In Palus-Kadegaon assembly seat, the optionreceived 20,631 votes.

In India, the NOTA option does not affect the electoral result in the constituency, i.e. even if the maximum votes are for NOTA, the candidate with maximum vote share will still be the winner. Pressing the NOTA button the voter is,therefore, saying that one is abstaining from voting.

The addition of NOTA as an option on the ballot paper and the EVM was made in 2013 on the Supreme Court’s direction in a PIL filed by the People’s Union of Civil Liberties. In thesjudgement, the Court held that not allowing a person to cast vote negatively defeats the very freedom of expression and the right to liberty. The Court further reasoned that introducing a NOTA button can increase the participation of democracy, and that the voter’sability to choose NOTA would compel the political parties to nominate a sound candidate.

Justice P. Sathasivam, former SC judge turned Governor of Kerala (first SC judge to be appointed a Governor), noted, “Democracy is all about choice. This choice can be better expressed by giving the voters an opportunity to verbalize themselves unreservedly and by imposing least restrictions on their ability to make such a choice. By providing NOTA button in the EVMs, it will accelerate the effective political participation in the present state of democratic system and the voters in fact will be empowered. We are of the considered view that in bringing out this right to cast negative vote at a time when electioneering is in full swing, it will foster the purity of the electoral process and also fulfill one of its objective, namely, wide participation of people.”

Prior to this judgement, the polling booth would only show a list of candidates. As stated in Rule 49-O of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, in order to exercise the right to not vote any of the standing candidate, one would be required to inform the presiding officer of this decision and have a remark made to that effect beside their name on the register along with their signature or thumb impression.This compromised the secrecy of their ballot. The Supreme Court held that this provision is violative of the constitutional freedom of expression and is ultra vires to the provision for maintaining secrecy of voting under the Representation of the People Act, 1951.

Negative voting has garnered such voting presence in India ever since. In the 2018 Karnataka assembly elections, more votes were polled for NOTA than six smaller parties. In the2018 Rajasthan elections, at least 15 constituencies polled more NOTA votes than the victory margin of the wining candidates.



Related Articles