Right of negative voting

Under the present law there is no right of negative voting which enables a voter to refuse to vote for a particular candidate or to cast his vote against all candidates. This is different from a voter refusing to exercise his franchise at all. In a writ petition filed in the Supreme Court by People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) it is submitted that a citizen's right to vote at an election in secrecy includes the right of negative voting qua all candidates. Another plea is that the Election Commission (EC) is bound to provide appropriate mechanism in the Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) for effective exercise of such a right.

It is noteworthy that the EC in its letter dated 10.12.2001 supported the electors' right of negative voting. Indeed, counsel for the Commission Meenakshi Arora submitted before the Supreme Court that the PUCL could seek directions for appropriate modification in the EVMs to enable the electors to exercise their right of negative voting. The Union of India contended that the right to vote is a mere statutory right and it is neither a fundamental right nor a constitutional right.

A Division Bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justices B.N. Agrawal and G.S. Singhvi had to deal with this issue. Various judgments were cited by the parties. Justice Singhvi elaborately referred to previous Supreme Court judgments and after an excellent analysis succinctly enunciated the principles laid down in them. The Division Bench however found it difficult to reconcile the divergent observations made on this issue in different three judge Bench decisions. The Bench felt that an authoritative exposition of law by a larger bench was needed on this issue as also about the amplitude of the power of the EC. Hence it directed the matter to be placed before the CJI for appropriate orders. It is hoped that these issues, which are vital to our democracy, are decided with the utmost expedition especially in view of the forthcoming general elections.

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