Supreme Court says no to the use of None of the above (NOTA) in Rajya Sabha elections

The Supreme Court today issued an order barring the use of option ‘None of the above (NOTA)’ in the elections to the Rajya Sabha citing it should be applied in direct polls only.

A Bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud questioned the validity of the Election Commission’s notification, which allows NOTA as an option in the ballot papers for Rajya Sabha polls.

The top court said Rajya Sabha elections were an indirect form meant for proportional representation of states in the council of states. The apex court had questioned the poll panel’s notification, said that NOTA was meant to be exercised by individual voters in direct polls.

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Shailesh Manubhai Parmar, the Congress MLA, who was also the chief whip in the Gujarat assembly during the controversial Rajya Sabha polls, had filed an appeal in the Supreme Court regarding the use of NOTA in the Rajya Sabha elections. He had challenged the poll panel’s notification allowing the NOTA option in ballot papers.

The Gujarat Congress leader had petitioned and stated that the NOTA provision would encourage “horse-trading and corruption”, if allowed in the Rajya Sabha elections.

Earlier, the top court had objected to introducing NOTA and has warned that it could lead to the legitimization of cross voting. Justice Chandrachud had said, “The idea of NOTA in Rajya Sabha elections was to prevent cross-voting, But allowing NOTA is like allowing cross-voting through the back door.”

The Chief Justice Dipak Misra had said, “We cannot tolerate the prescription of NOTA in Rajya Sabha elections. Why should the Supreme Court be a part to an unconstitutional principle?”

Interestingly, both the BJP and Congress are opposed to the provisions of NOTA in RS elections. The BJP is of the view that, since there is no secret ballot voting Rajya Sabha election, the purpose of NOTA was not much of use. While, the Congress claims that it is violative of the Constitution and electoral laws and will be “recipe for corruption”.

The Election Commission in its circular in 2014, had included the provisions of the option NOTA in the Rajya Sabha elections, after it was included in the  entire election process of the country after the Supreme Court’s judgement in ‘People’s Union for Civil Liberties vs. Union Of India’ in 2013. The Election Commission has defended the NOTA, saying that every member had the right to not vote and abolishing it would be against the conduct of election rules and also unconstitutional.

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