What if NOTA gets majority votes? SC asks EC about possibility of re-election

Pointing out the unopposed election of a BJP candidate in Surat, the petitioner contested that there should be an election and the voter should have the option of NOTA even if there is a single candidate.
Supreme Court of India, file image.
Supreme Court of India, file image. IANS
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The Supreme Court, on Friday, April 26, agreed to examine a plea seeking directions to the Election Commission of India (EC) to frame guidelines or rules, for elections in which none of the contesting candidates individually surpass the None of The Above (NOTA) category. Issuing notice, a bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud, and comprising Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra sought the response of the ECI in the matter.

The plea filed by a motivational speaker Shiv Khera sought the court to direct that an election should be declared null and void and a re-election must be conducted in a constituency if NOTA gets a majority. It referred to various orders passed by diverse State Election Commissions providing that NOTA shall be treated as a “fictional candidate” and fresh elections were to be conducted in-case NOTA received the highest number of votes.

Paying for uniform implementation of the NOTA vote option, the petitioner sought directions that the candidates who poll fewer votes than NOTA be barred from contesting the bye election conducted after cancelling the election in which NOTA got highest votes.

As per the petition, the ECI, in July last year, issued a letter stating that even if, in an extreme case the number of votes against NOTA is more that 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.

The PIL stated though the poll body incorporated and gave directions to include ‘NOTA’ in the ballot paper but failed to recognise NOTA as a valid vote, adding that when the apex court contemplated the NOTA button, it had in mind a system where a voter is simply refusing to vote for any of the listed candidates and thereby demanding fresh election, with a new set of candidates.

Appearing on behalf of the petitioner, senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan pointed out the recent incident in Surat constituency, where BJP candidate Mukesh Dalal was declared the winner without elections as the nominations of Congress candidates got rejected and others withdrew their nominations.

He contended that even if there is a single candidate, there should be an election and the voter should have the option NOTA. "In Surat where nobody else has appeared, they are forced to go with whoever the candidate is," he argued, according to a LiveLaw report.

The bench observed that the petitioner was seeking to improve the law from the 2013 judgement which introduced NOTA. In 2013, the Supreme Court had directed the poll body to provide the option of “None of the Above” (NOTA) in all EVMs saying that 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 thinks about them. However, there is no consequence if NOTA wins. If NOTA gets the highest number of votes, the candidate who got the second highest would be declared the winner.

(With IANS inputs)

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