SC gives electors the right to reject, says there's dire need of negative voting

EVMIn a landmark judgment that aimed at ensuring wider voter participation and to “compel” political parties to field “sound” candidates with “integrity”, the court directed the Election Commission to provide an option for negative voting in EVMs.

Emphasising that there is a "dire need of negative voting" in India's electoral system to ensure that a candidate wins only on the basis of "positive votes," the Supreme Court on Friday ordered the introduction of a 'None of the Above' (NOTA) button in voting machines to "empower" voters to reject all candidates.

Voters have the right to reject all candidates: SC

In a landmark judgment that aimed at ensuring wider voter participation and to "compel" political parties to field "sound" candidates with "integrity", the court directed the Election Commission to provide an option for negative voting in EVMs and ballot papers so that voters are "able to exercise their right not to vote while maintaining their right of secrecy".

Related: Modi backs 'right to reject' option

It asked the EC to implement it at once or in a phased manner, with the assistance of the central government. Until now, a voter who did not want to choose any candidate could only register his or her decision in a register outside the polling booth and such details were not kept secret.

A bench led by Chief Justice P Sathasivam threw out the Centre's objection which said the Representation of the People Act did not conceive of a negative vote and that negative voting would have no legal consequences since the candidate getting the highest number of votes would still be declared elected under existing election laws.

"Not allowing a person to cast vote negatively defeats the very freedom of expression and the right ensured in Article 21, i.e. the right to liberty...a provision of negative voting would be in the interest of promoting democracy as it would send clear signals to political parties and their candidates as to what the electorate think about them. The mechanism of negative voting, thus, serves a very fundamental and essential part of a vibrant democracy," it said.

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