SC strikes down NOTA in Rajya Sabha polls

Supreme Court (SC) strikes down NOTA in Rajya Sabha polls

The Supreme Court struck down the four-year-old ‘none of the above’ (NOTA) option in Rajya Sabha polls, saying NOTA defeated the fairness in indirect elections, destroyed democratic values.

The challenge to NOTA in Rajya Sabha elections was brought to the SC by Gujarat Congress through Shailesh Manubhai Parmar on the eve of last year’s polls involving Congress general secretary Ahmed Patel as the party faced desertion of its MLAs and alleged poaching by BJP. However, the BJP-led NDA supported the petitioner in seeking disbanding of Nota in Rajya Sabha polls, which witnesses indirect elections as well as open ballot unlike secrecy of voting associated with Lok Sabha and assembly polls.

Why is NOTA Counterproductive?

  • The court pointed out that in the voting in Rajya Sabha elections, there is a whip and the elector is bound to obey the command of the party. The court observed that while NOTA option looks attractive in Rajya Sabha polls, it actually harms an electoral process where open ballot is permissible and party discipline reigns. Moreover where the elector’s vote has value and the value of the vote is transferable.
  • The Court held that NOTA in an indirect election would not only run counter to the discipline expected from an elector under the Tenth Schedule but also be “counterproductive to the basic grammar of the law of disqualification on the ground of defection.”
  • NOTA will destroy the concept of value of a vote and representation and encourage defection that shall open the doors for corruption which is a malignant disorder.
  • This have the effect of overriding the provisions of Article 80(4) — proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote, the provisions of Representation of People Act 1951 and the Conduct of Election Rules 1961.

What is NOTA?

”NOTA” or ”none of the above” is a ballot option provided in the elections to Indian voters. Through NOTA, a citizen has the right to not vote for any candidate contesting the elections.

What is the role of NOTA in the Rajya Sabha polls?

  • In Rajya Sabha polls, MLAs have to show their ballot paper to an authorised agent before inserting it in the ballot box
  • If an MLA uses the NOTA option, the vote is rendered invalid. The party is free to take any action against him but he cannot be disqualified as a legislator
  • The party can also expel him but he’ll continue to be an MLA and as per the EC rules, his vote cannot become invalidated for defying party purposes

When was NOTA first used in India?

The NOTA option was first used in the 2013 assembly elections held in four states — Chhattisgarh, Mizoram, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and the Union Territory, Delhi. More than 15 lakh people exercised the option in the state polls.

Background :-

The EC had introduced NOTA option in Rajya Sabha polls in 2014, a year after the SC had ordered the commission to give this option to voters in direct polls to register their protest that none of the candidates in the fray were suitable to represent them in Lok Sabha or assemblies whereas The CJI-led bench was in complete agreement with the 2013 SC judgment, which had ordered introduction of Nota in direct elections.

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