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Similarities and Dissimilarities Between Article 49 (O) and NOTA

Posted by Admin on April 16, 2014 | Read the First Comment

It goes without saying that India has seen a rise in the number of discerning voters who consider several factors before casting a vote. They have become more conscious of their rights as electorates. Of all the rights a voter is entitled to, the right to reject candidates and cast a negative vote has been most talked about.

Similarities and Dissimilarities Between Article 49 - O and NOTA

What does Article 49 (O) Imply?

Under section 49 (O) of the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961, it has been meticulously stated the procedure to be followed when a valid voter decides not to cast his vote in the favour of any of the candidates. In that case, the voter can enter his electoral roll number in Form 17A and put his signature. Further, the presiding officer has to put a remark in the same form and get the voter’s signature against the due remark. The objective of this provision was to prevent electoral fraud or misuse of votes.

However, this provision has been recently rendered unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. As per the apex court’s verdict, Article 49 (O) violates the fundamental right of a voter to reject candidates in secrecy.

What Difference would NOTA make?

In its recent judgment, the apex court has asked the Election Commission to make a provision of the “None of the Above (NOTA)” option in the Electronic Voting Machines (EVM), so that a voter is able to exercise the right to vote without any violation of the secrecy of their decision. On this note, the Election Commission declared that the NOTA option would be provided on the EVMs, and the provision under the Rule 49 (O) would stand annulled.

NOTA and Article 49 (0): Similarities and Dissimilarities

It has been argued that the scope of Article 49 (O) is wider than the NOTA. If analysed carefully, the former rule gives the government a chance to understand the reason behind the rejection, by going through the voters’ remarks. In NOTA, we only get to know the voter’s rejection and not the actual reason.

Those who support the earlier provision, are of the opinion that implementation of the NOTA option would not help the administration gauge all the reasons that demotivate electors from casting their votes. It is not always the lack of faith in candidates that results in rejection of votes.

Although, both NOTA and Article 49 (O) are directed towards empowering voters to exercise their fundamental rights, they both come with their merits and demerits. While the former doesn’t capture the cause of rejection, the latter violates a voter’s secrecy. A middle ground has to be found.