Polity & Governance Prelims cum Mains

EC should act within the law: Supreme Court

The News

  • The Supreme Court criticised the Election Commission of India for introducing NOTA in Rajya Sabha elections. The poll body should act within the law, it said.



  • The Election Commission introduced NOTA options in EVMs from 11 October, 2013 pursuant to the Supreme Court’s order.
  • Election Commission issued a circular in January 2014 that introduced NOTA in the Rajya Sabha elections.
  • Congress approached the Supreme Court in 2017 about claiming that NOTA was violative of the Constitution and electoral laws
  • The petition argued that the Election Commission cannot sanction the use of NOTA in Rajya Sabha elections by way of mere circulars, which have the effect of overriding the provisions of Article 80(4) i.e. proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote, the provisions of Representation of People Act 1951 and the Conduct of Election Rules 1961.
  • A three-judge Bench of the SC has now scrapped the use of NOTA (none of the above) option for Rajya Sabha elections.
  • According to the SC bench, Election Commission could not act against the court’s judgment in PUCL, which introduced the idea of NOTA, and could not “conceive concepts or ideas” antithetical to the purity of elections.


How Rajya Sabha members are elected?

  • Open ballots are used in the Rajya Sabha elections.
  • These elections follow a proportional representation system based on the single transferable vote.


What is NOTA?

  • None of the above (NOTA) is a ballot option in some jurisdictions or organizations, designed to allow the voter to indicate disapproval of all of the candidates in a voting system.
  • The idea behind the use of NOTA is to allow the voter to register a “protest” vote if none of the candidates is acceptable to her for whatever reason.
  • While NOTA votes are tallied, the candidate with the highest number of votes polled is declared elected irrespective of the NOTA total.


How does the NOTA work in RS elections?

  • In Rajya Sabha polls, the MLAs have to show their ballot paper to an authorised party agent before putting it in ballot box.
  • If a voter (MLA) defies the party directive and votes for someone else or uses NOTA option, he cannot be disqualified as a legislator. But the party is free to take disciplinary action including expulsion.
  • The defiant voter can continue to be an MLA and his vote can also not be invalidated for defying party directions, the EC rules say.


Issues with NOTA in Rajya Sabha polls

  • NOTA will harm the electoral process where open ballot is permissible and party discipline reigns.
  • 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.
  • NOTA is restricted to direct elections, while this is a case of indirect election on proportional representative by means of single transferable vote.
  • In the case of the Rajya Sabha elections, the vote allows for the preferential ordering of candidates.


Supporting views on NOTA

  • The principle of a protest vote remains the same even if these are indirect elections.
  • The presence of the NOTA option for the legislator allows the possibility of a protest vote against the party high command for choosing candidates who are not agreeable to her, without having to choose candidates from opposing parties.

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