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General Studies 2 >> Polity

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The extraordinary result in Indore is the most votes that the “None Of The Above” (NOTA) option has ever received in any constituency to date. The previous NOTA record-holder was Gopalganj, Bihar, in 2019, when 51,660 voters chose this option
2.When and why was the NOTA option introduced?
  • In September 2013, the Supreme Court instructed the Election Commission of India (ECI) to implement the NOTA (None of the Above) option for voters, aiming to safeguard the confidentiality of voters’ decisions.
  • Previously, in 2004, the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) had petitioned the Supreme Court, urging the ECI to adopt measures preserving voters' right to secrecy when exercising their franchise.
  • They contested that the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961, breached secrecy by recording the choices of voters who abstained from voting, including their signatures or thumb impressions.
  • Conversely, the central government argued that the right to vote was solely a statutory right and only applied to voters who participated, not those who abstained.
  • However, the three-judge Bench, led by Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam and Justices Ranjana Prakash Desai and Ranjan Gogoi, ruled that secrecy must be upheld regardless of whether a voter casts a ballot.
  • They emphasized the importance of secrecy in ensuring fair elections for Lok Sabha and state legislatures, stating that revealing a voter's choice or identity would serve no discernible public interest.
  • Additionally, considering the introduction of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), the court observed that the absence of any indication from the machine upon abstaining from voting ensured privacy.
  • Notably, the court acknowledged the ECI's 2001 request to the Ministry of Law and Justice to incorporate a NOTA option in EVMs and ballot papers to protect voter secrecy and enable voters to express dissent against contesting candidates, thereby reducing fraudulent voting.
  • Consequently, the court endorsed this proposal, believing it would compel political parties to respect public opinion and nominate candidates known for their integrity. As a result, the Supreme Court directed the ECI to include a NOTA button in EVMs
3.What is rule 49-O? And the way is it different from NOTA?
  • Rule 49-O refers to a provision in the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961, under the Representation of the People Act in India. It allows voters to go to the polling booth but abstain from voting for any candidate.
  • When a voter chooses the 49-O option, they inform the presiding officer at the polling booth of their decision not to vote for any candidate. This decision is recorded, but the vote is not counted in the final tally. Essentially, it serves as a method for expressing dissatisfaction with the available candidates without entirely boycotting the electoral process.
  • NOTA (None of the Above), on the other hand, is a more recent provision introduced in India following a Supreme Court directive in 2013. NOTA appears as an option on the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) alongside the list of candidates in an election. It allows voters to officially register their dissatisfaction with all the candidates contesting in that particular election.
  • Unlike Rule 49-O, where the vote is simply not counted, NOTA votes are counted and recorded separately from the votes for individual candidates. However, if the NOTA option receives the highest number of votes in an election, the candidate with the highest number of votes among the contesting candidates is still declared the winner.
  • In summary, while both Rule 49-O and NOTA provide mechanisms for voters to express dissatisfaction with candidates, NOTA is a more formal and transparent option as it is directly integrated into the voting process and the votes are counted separately.
  4. Positive and Negative about NOTA
Positive Aspects Negative Aspects
Provides a voice for dissatisfied voters who do not support any of the contesting candidates. NOTA votes do not directly impact the outcome of the election; the candidate with the highest number of votes among the contesting candidates is still declared the winner, even if NOTA receives the highest number of votes.
Encourages political parties to field more credible candidates as NOTA votes reflect voter dissatisfaction with the available choices. Some argue that NOTA could lead to voter apathy by giving the impression that none of the candidates are worthy of support, potentially discouraging voter turnout.
Helps in improving the quality of democracy by fostering accountability among political parties and candidates. NOTA does not provide a mechanism for voters to suggest alternative candidates or solutions.
Strengthens the concept of voter empowerment by giving voters the option to register their discontent with the electoral process. Critics argue that NOTA is merely symbolic and does not address deeper issues such as electoral reform or the need for better candidate selection processes.
Increases transparency in the electoral process by publicly recording the number of NOTA votes cast in an election. Some political analysts argue that NOTA could fragment the vote and lead to the election of less popular candidates in multi-cornered contests.
For Prelims: NOTA, EVM, VVPAT
For Mains: GSII-Current events in national and state politics and elections
Source: Indian express

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