- NOTA is ballot option designed to allow voter to indicate disapproval of all of the candidates in a voting system.
- It was introduced in 2013 after Supreme Court of India directed Election Commission to provide NOTA button in the electronic voting machines.
- NOTA option was first used in 2013 assembly elections held in four States — Chhattisgarh, Mizoram, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
- 2014 Lok Sabha election was first general election to see its nationwide use of NOTA, where it polled 1.1% of the votes.
- NOTA is not right to reject i.e. candidate with maximum votes wins the election irrespective of the number of NOTA votes polled.
- Election Commission also has clarified that even though votes cast as NOTA are counted, they are considered as invalid votes so they will not change outcome of election process.
- Supreme Court scrapped use of NOTA (none of the above) option for Rajya Sabha elections, saying it defeats fairness in indirect elections, destroys democratic values and serves as Satan of defection and corruption.
- It quashed June 2014 notification of Election Commission that allowed use of NOTA option in Rajya Sabha elections.
- It held that NOTA will destroy concept of value of vote and representation, and encourage defection that shall open doors for corruption which is malignant disorder.
- It held that choice of NOTA will have negative impact in voting process of Rajya Sabha where open ballot is permissible and secrecy of voting has no room and discipline of political parties matters.
- NOTA was introduced in Lok Sabha polls (direct election) by Election Commission of India (ECI) following 2013 Supreme Court decision.
- It was extended to Rajya Sabha election (i.e. indirect elections) via notification in January 2014.
- Election Commission in apex court had justified its decision of introducing NOTA in Rajya Sabha elections, mentioning that it did not make any distinction between direct and indirect elections.
What is NOTA?
NOTA stands for “None Of The Above”. It signifies right of voters to reject all candidates contesting the elections. In 2013, SC upheld this right and directed Election Commission to have an option of NOTA on EVMs and ballot papers. It is considered as a major reform which will go a long way in cleansing political system of the country.
NOTA will not impact election results:
In its landmark judgment in September 2013 ordering the inclusion of the NOTA option, the Supreme Court had clarified that a NOTA count would not invalidate an election and the highest-polling candidate would be declared elected. With this, the voter only gets a method to register discontent.
Why have NOTA if there’s ‘no electoral value’?
NOTA gives people dissatisfied with contesting candidates an opportunity to express their disapproval. This, in turn, increases the chances of more people turning up to cast their votes, even if they do not support any candidate, and decreases the count of bogus votes. Also, the Supreme Court has observed that negative voting could bring about “a systemic change in polls and political parties will be forced to project clean candidates”.
Why NOTA is good?
- NOTA option will force the political parties to select the honest candidates, i.e with no criminal records.
- NOTA ensures people’s ‘right to freedom of speech and expression’.
- This will increase the polling percentage.
Why it is bad?
- Even if majority people vote for NOTA, the next highest majority candidate will be elected. So, in the strictest sense it does not give any chance to reject or disqualify candidates.
Which other countries allow NOTA?
Colombia, Ukraine, Brazil, Bangladesh, Finland, Spain, Sweden, Chile, France, Belgium and Greece allow their voters to cast NOTA votes. The US also allows it in a few cases. The state of Texas in the US permits the provision since 1975. The option, however, has faced opposition there.
Though NOTA option has no effect on the results, it is definitely a good step because it gives people the right to express their opinion regarding the contestants. It would also lead to decriminalization of politics. Hence, NOTA should be considered as the first step in the right direction.