Should Indian voters be given the option of casting a negative vote, rejecting all the candidates in an election?
The Centre on Wednesday rejected the idea. Additional Solicitor General Amarendra Sharan told the Supreme Court that Indian citizens did not have any fundamental or statutory rights to do so. Voting is a positive right, he added.
The court is hearing a petition filed in 2004 by People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) seeking direction to the government and the Election Commission for creating “non-of-the-above” (NOTA) option in ballot papers or electronic voting machines to enable voters to reject all the candidates, if they so desired.
PUCL counsel Sanjay Parikh argued before a bench headed by Justice B.N. Agrawal that voters’ right to elect or not to elect a candidate was part of their right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution and accordingly the government should make provision for NOTA option in ballot papers or electronic voting machines. PUCL also said it would check criminalisation of politics.
But Sharan said: “By no stretch of imagination, the expression ‘voting’ (in the electoral laws) can include the right to abstain from voting or non-voting.”