Supreme Court to Examine Plea on NOTA Guidelines in Elections

Mainstream
27-Apr-2024
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The Supreme Court has agreed to scrutinize a petition urging the Election Commission of India (ECI) to establish guidelines for elections where the "None of The Above" (NOTA) option surpasses all contesting candidates individually. Filed by motivational speaker Shiv Khera, the plea advocates for declaring an election null and void if NOTA garners a majority, necessitating a re-election in the constituency. The bench, headed by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and comprising Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, sought the ECI's response on the matter.

The petition underscores the need for uniform implementation of the NOTA option and proposes barring candidates who receive fewer votes than NOTA from contesting subsequent bye-elections. It refers to instances where state election commissions treated NOTA as a "fictional candidate," triggering fresh elections if NOTA secured the highest votes.

Highlighting a discrepancy in the ECI's approach, the petition notes that even if NOTA receives more votes than the candidates collectively, the candidate with the highest individual count is declared the winner, as per a July 2023 letter by the ECI. The petitioner argues that NOTA should be recognized as a valid vote, aligning with the apex court's intent of providing voters with the option to demand fresh elections by refusing to vote for any listed candidates.

Senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, representing the petitioner, cited the recent incident in the Surat constituency, where the BJP candidate won uncontested due to the rejection of Congress nominations. He emphasized the necessity for elections even with a single candidate, advocating for the inclusion of NOTA as an option. 

The bench noted the petitioner's aim to refine the law from the 2013 judgment introducing NOTA, which mandated its inclusion in all EVMs to promote democracy and provide a mechanism for voters to express dissatisfaction with listed candidates. However, the court observed that currently, if NOTA secures the highest votes, the candidate with the second-highest count is declared the winner, without any consequences for NOTA's victory.

Author: Anushka Taraniya 

News Writer, MIT ADT University