Election Commission has issued instructions for Chief Electoral Officers of states and Union Territories to introduce the "None of the Above" (NOTA) option during polls to enable voters to exercise their right to not vote for any particular candidate while maintaining secrecy.
EC has decided to introduce the NOTA option in forthcoming Assembly elections in the five states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Delhi and Mizoram after Supreme Court in a Sept. 27 judgement directed that the said option be included for voters on EVMs and ballot papers. Voters may for the first time exercise the choice of not opting for any candidate in the fray for a particular seat without their right to maintaining secrecy over their decision being violated. "Following the panel containing the name and symbol of the last candidate, there shall be a panel below with the words "None of the Above" written therein for the benefit of those electors who may wish to exercise the option of not voting for any of the candidates in the fray.
"These words shall be written in the same language or languages as used in the case of names of candidates. The size of the panel for "None of the Above" shall be the same as for the candidates," the EC order said.
EC has directed that changes be made in EVMs and ballot papers to enable voters to exercise the said option if they chose to. Instructions were also issued for changes in the handbook for Returning Officers and in the various forms used for counting along with the final result sheet and the manual for Presiding Officers where the "None of the Above" votes should be tallied and mentioned. "It is clarified that NOTA has the same effect as not voting for any candidate under the earlier provisions of Rule 49-O. Therefore, even if, in any extreme case, the number of votes against NOTA is more than the number of votes secured by the candidates, the candidate who secures the largest number of votes among the contesting candidates shall be declared to be elected as per the provisions of Rule 64," EC said.
EC said, "Since Rules 41(2), 41(3) and 49-O have been declared as ultra vires the provisions of the Constitution and RP Act 51, the option under Rules 41 (2) and Rule 49-O shall not be available henceforth. The Presiding Officers and Polling Officers should be specifically briefed about this position in the training sessions." It has also asked Chief Electoral Officers of states/UTs to inform District Returning Officers and Presiding Officers of all Parliamentary and Assembly constituencies about the changes vis-a-vis NOTA. "This may also be brought to the notice of all political parties based in your state, including the state units of national and state-recognised political parties," EC added.
Until now, this option was not available to voters on ballot papers and EVMs. Voters had to use the option of NOTA through a register under Rule 49-O of the Conduct of Election Rules, thus compromising the secrecy of their vote. Granting voters the NOTA option, Supreme Court had on September 27, said, "For democracy to survive, it is essential that the best available men should be chosen as people's representatives for proper governance of the country. This can be best achieved through men of high moral and ethical values, who win the elections on a positive vote. "Thus in a vibrant democracy, the voter must be given an opportunity to choose none of the above button, which will indeed compel the political parties to nominate a sound candidate. This situation palpably tells us the dire need of negative voting."