24 Nov Nota Law Section
Rule 49-O was a rule of India`s 1961 Election Rules, which governs elections in the country. It describes the procedure to be followed if a valid voter decides not to vote and decides to register this fact.  The rule was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in September 2013 and the Election Commission of India announced that this option would no longer be available under this rule.  The obvious purpose of this section was to maintain an appropriate register in order to prevent electoral fraud or abuse of vote. While, on the one hand, more votes for NOTE could be interpreted as an expression of discontent among the electorate, there is also the risk that the underlying cause is ignorance of candidates, uninformed and irresponsible voting, or expression of caste-based bias, as in the case of reserved constituencies. Thus, while NOTA definitely provides a voice for dissent, it must be accompanied by voter outreach efforts to prevent abuses of this measure. There were discussions to improve NOTA and empower voters through NOTA. Some of the proposed improvements include: In many elections, NOTA won more votes than many of the competing political parties.   49-O. If a voter decides not to vote. — Where, after his elector`s number has been duly entered on the list of electors on Form 17A and his signature or thumbprint has been affixed in accordance with Article 49L, paragraph 1, an elector has decided not to register his vote, such entry on Form 17A shall be contested by the President and the signature or thumbprint of the objection to this remark shall be obtained from the elector.  In 2018, Maharashtra`s State Election Commission (SEC) investigated local elections over the past two years and found several cases where NOTA won more votes than winning candidates. To give some examples: In the Bori gram panchayat polls in Pune district, NOTA received 85.57% of the vote; At the Mankarwadi gram panchayat polling stations in the same district, 204 of the 330 valid votes went to NOTA.
The Khugaon Khurd sarpanch in Nanded district received only 120 votes, while NOTA received 627 of the total 849 votes. Similarly, in a municipal election in the village of Khavadi in Lanja Tehsil, the winning candidate received 130 votes out of 441 valid votes, while NOTA received 210 votes. In the 2018 general election in Madhya Pradesh, the difference between the (victorious) BJP`s vote share and the Congress was only 0.1%, while NOTA received 1.4% of the vote.  However, it appears that the popularity of NOTE is increasing over time. NOTA has yet to secure a majority, but in many elections since its inception – including the 2014 Lok Sabha elections as well as several parliamentary elections – the number of NOTA votes has been above the margin in many constituencies. This means that if voters had chosen one of the two parties with the highest score instead of NOTA, it could have changed the outcome of the election, as shown in the pie chart. The Commission has received proposals from a very large number of individuals and organizations that there should be a provision allowing an elector to reject all candidates in the electoral district if they do not consider them appropriate. When voting with the traditional ballot and ballot boxes, a voter can cast the ballot without marking his or her vote against one of the candidates if he or she wishes.
However, when voting with electronic voting machines, the voter has no such possibility. Although section 49 O of the Election Regulations, 1961 provides that an elector may refuse to vote after being identified and the necessary entries have been entered on the list of electors and on the certified copy of the list of electors, the secrecy of the poll is not protected here, since the election officers and election officers of the polling station are informed of the decision of such an elector. In its judgment of 27 September 2013, the Supreme Court ordered the Electoral Commission to make the necessary arrangements for the “None of the above (NOTA)” option in ballot papers/EVM so that voters who do not wish to vote for any of the candidates can exercise their right not to vote for a candidate without violating the secrecy of their decision. Sections 41(2), 41(3) and 49-O of the Conduct of Elections Regulations 1961 were considered ultra vires section 128 of the Representation of the People Act 1951 and section 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. [Why?]. On 11 October 2013, the Election Commission issued a notice stating that none of the above options would be available on voting machines and that the Article 49-O option was no longer available.  In many ridings, the votes received by NOTA were greater than the candidate`s margin of victory.   Observations were made that NOTE may encourage more citizens to participate in elections, although there is a risk that the novelty factor associated with NOTE will gradually erode. It is the duty of every citizen to inform himself about the candidates` program and to vote conscientiously for the candidate he thinks is the best. The real purpose of an election is for representatives to be elected by the people.
Encouraging people not to express their preferred candidate is contrary to its purpose. For this reason, voting in Australia is required by law. In addition, cancelling an election would result in a waste of public funds spent on polls. “Some people argue that implementing NOTA will increase election costs. But a depraved candidate who engages in corruption and abuse is a higher price to pay for the country. Only the desire to stay in power and the greed for money take precedence over values. In light of this, the Maharashtra SEC decided to consider amending the existing NOTE laws. In November 2018, the SEC announced that if NOTA received the maximum number of votes in an election, new elections would be held. The ordinance would apply immediately to polls and by-elections in all local authorities, local councils and nagar panchayats. If NOTA also receives the highest number of votes in its re-election, the candidate with the most votes, excluding NOTA, is declared the winner.  However, unelected candidates are not excluded from re-election.
In 2016 and 2017, LIPs were filed to “amplify” the impact of NOTE by giving it the power to reject – requiring new elections if NOTA wins a majority and excluding rejected candidates from participation. However, the Supreme Court responded to these PIAs by stating that such a solution was “impractical” and that “holding an election in our country is a very serious and costly matter.”  However, the power of the nota to express dissent is evident in reports in which entire communities have decided to protest democratically against governments that have not responded to their needs. For example, there have been several cases where entire villages have decided to vote for NOTA because local governments consistently fail to meet basic requirements such as roads, electricity, and electricity, inaction in the face of villagers` complaints about water pollution from industry, and even reports of sex workers pushing for the legalization of their profession, to protect themselves under labour law. but received no attention from the government and decided to opt for NOTA.  Section 79(d) of the Representation of the People Act 1951 recognizes the “right to vote” also recognizes the right “not to vote at an election.”  The “Representation of the People Act” applies to “. either the House of Parliament or the House or either House of a state legislature.  The recognition of the “right to vote” and the right to “not vote” is not made in the laws relating to the election of panchayats in Kerala. In the 2018 Karnataka Assembly elections, NOTA received more votes than some parties present at the national level such as CPI(M) and BSP.  The inclusion of NOTA in panchayat elections in these states and improvements to NOTE may require amendments or additions to these laws and rules. It has been reported that activist Anna Hazare supports the “right not to vote”.  Since the ballot paper or electronic voting machine (EVM) only displayed the list of candidates, a voter could not register his vote directly in accordance with § 49-O, but had to inform the president in the voting booth. This violated the secrecy of the ballot.
With paper ballots, however, one could “waste” one`s vote by stamping several candidates; This was the standard way of not voting any votes without violating secrecy before the introduction of the EVM.