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Analysis of NOTA (None of the Above)

Syllabus: Polity: Election – NOTA (None of the Above)

 Source: IE

Context: In Indore, NOTA (None of the Above) emerged runner-up with more than 200,000 votes

 

What happened in Indore? 

In Indore, BJP’s Shankar Lalwani won with a significant margin of 10.09 lakh votes, receiving 12,26,751 votes. Surprisingly, NOTA emerged as the closest competitor with 2,18,674 votes, marking the highest-ever NOTA count in any constituency. The previous record was in Gopalganj, Bihar, in 2019, with 51,660 NOTA votes.

 

What is NOTA? 

NOTA allows voters to reject all candidates, indicating dissatisfaction. Even if it wins the majority, the runner-up candidate wins. The Supreme Court specifies it’s for universal adult suffrage and direct elections. It’s also used in countries like France, Belgium, Brazil, Finland, and Sweden. NOTA was introduced in 2013 after a Supreme Court (SC) direction in a public interest litigation filed by the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL).

NOTA (None of the Above)
NOTA (None of the Above)

 

What happens if NOTA receives the highest number of votes in a constituency? 

If NOTA receives the highest number of votes in a constituency, currently, there are no legal consequences attached to it. The second most successful candidate wins. However, there’s a petition under consideration by the apex court to declare elections “null and void” if NOTA wins the majority. The petitioner advocates for guidelines ensuring consequences for candidates failing to surpass NOTA.

Some states (states like Maharashtra, Haryana, Puducherry, Delhi, and Chandigarh) have already declared NOTA as a “Fictional Electoral Candidate,” triggering fresh elections if it surpasses individual candidates’ votes. The petitioner argues for uniform rules nationwide, suggesting that NOTA’s introduction in 2013 hasn’t achieved its intended purpose of enhancing voter participation or candidate quality.

 E.g., In the Maharashtra local body election, re-election may be conducted when majority votes are NOTA.

  

Significance of NOTA option:

SignificanceExplanation
DisapprovalNOTA allows dissatisfied voters to express disapproval towards contesting candidates. For example, women activists in Kerala advocated for NOTA when no female candidate was present. In Tamil Nadu, youth groups used NOTA as a protest against corruption.
Participation in votingStudies suggest that NOTA can increase voter turnout by motivating citizens to participate in elections.
Prevent bogus votesBy encouraging more people to cast their votes, even if they don’t support any candidate, NOTA helps reduce the count of bogus votes.
Enable the right to rejectNOTA enables voters to exercise their right to reject all candidates and register a vote of rejection.
Right to secrecyPreviously, voters had to inform the presiding officer if they chose “None of the above,” compromising ballot secrecy. NOTA ensures the maintenance of voters’ right to secrecy.

 

Is NOTA allowed in Rajya Sabha Polls? 

No, the Supreme Court had previously, ruled out the use of the ‘None Of The Above’ (NOTA) option in the Rajya Sabha elections. The court observed that NOTA is intended for universal adult suffrage and direct elections, not for proportional representation, as in Rajya Sabha polls. This decision aligns with Article 80(4) of the Constitution and the Supreme Court’s 2013 judgment in PUCL v Union of India, which states that Rajya Sabha representatives are elected by state legislative assembly members through proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote.

 

Issues with NOTA: 

  1. No electoral value: NOTA votes are merely symbolic and do not affect the outcome of the election. Even if NOTA receives a majority, the candidate with the highest vote share still wins.
  2. Not a right to reject: Critics argue that NOTA does not provide the right to reject candidates but rather registers a negative opinion.
  3. Lack of awareness: Many voters are unaware of NOTA’s existence or its implications, leading to underutilization of this option.
  4. Caste bias: In some cases, high NOTA votes in reserved constituencies suggest a bias against candidates from certain castes, potentially undermining the purpose of NOTA.

 

Suggestions for Improvement of NOTA:

  1. Re-elections: If NOTA wins the majority, re-election should occur with new candidates. Maharashtra and Haryana have implemented similar measures.
  2. Barring candidates: Those receiving fewer votes than NOTA should be barred from re-election. Haryana treats NOTA as a “fictional candidate” in municipal polls.
  3. Cost on candidates: Parties losing to NOTA should cover re-election costs, and disabling the NOTA button during re-elections may prevent repeated cycles.
  4. Short-term ban: Candidates losing to NOTA could face a temporary ban on contesting elections.
  5. Awareness: Alongside NOTA, efforts to enhance voter awareness are crucial to prevent its misuse.

 

Conclusion: 

The Supreme Court expects NOTA to prompt a systemic change, compelling parties to nominate candidates of integrity. Strengthening NOTA by empowering it to reject and call for re-elections if it wins the majority is crucial.

 

Insta links:

 

Mains Links:

Discuss the role of the Election Commission of India in the light of the evolution of the Model Code of Conduct. (USPC 2022)

 

Prelims Links:

Consider the following statements: (USPC 2017)

  1. The Election Commission of India is a five-member body.
  2. The Union Ministry of Home Affairs decides the election schedule for the conduct of both general elections and bye-elections.
  3. Election Commission resolves the disputes relating to splits/mergers of recognised political parties.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 2 only
(c) 2 and 3 only
(d) 3 only

 

Ans: (d)