Right to reject, boon and bane
The Supreme Court judgement directing the Election Commission to provide the ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) option on electronic voting machines is certainly a landmark order that seeks to entrench the power of the voter to reject all the given candidates and exercise his or her freedom of expression. Welcomed by the EC, the verdict on the long-pending proposal is surely a feather in the cap of democracy, with a negative or neutral vote registering as a legitimate position in the exercise of actual vote giving. The NOTA judgement, while assuring the voters of secrecy in the case of an all-out rejection of the election candidates in the fray, also is a step in the direction of cleansing politics of the unwarranted elements, who are actively encouraged and nurtured across the political spectrum and who have the backing of political heavyweights who ensure their continuance. Although the government has filed a petition in the apex court that the writ was not maintainable as ‘right to vote’ was neither a constitutional, nor a statutory right, the fact that the order gives credence to Right to Representation Act and forces the parties to project candidates with a clean image is reason to cheer for the landmark verdict.
Even as the ‘right to reject’ adds fuel to the cleansing fire of the discourse around systemic electoral reforms, it needs to be underscored that despite the negative or neutral vote option, the manner in which the candidate will be declared victorious still remains past the post. For example, even if the candidate has been rejected by 90 per cent of the electorate, in case s/he manages to get past the rest in the fray, the system is bound to select him/her over and above the larger mood and mandate that are against the person. Thus, the electoral reforms cannot stop at introducing the right to reject only, because, technically, this is only the stepping stone towards wider sweeping reforms.