Apex court: Citizens have right to cast negative vote

Conferring the right to cast negative vote, the Supreme Court of India in a judgment held that citizens have the right to reject all candidates contesting an election. The apex court also directed the Election Commission of India to provide none of the above options at the end of the list of candidates contesting an election in a constituency. A bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam held that negative voting would foster purity and vibrancy of elections .It would also encourage participation as people who are not content with the candidates in the contest would also participate to express their opinion by rejecting contestants.

What did the Supreme Court say regarding Negative Voting?

The apex court held that being a Democracy the voters should be given choices. It is of the view that voters will be empowered by this right of negative voting. Voters using negative voting will be able to convey clear message to political parties and candidates as to what the voters think about them. The bench noted that the option of negative voting is prevalent in 13 nations. Even in India parliamentarians are given a choice to press the button for abstaining while voting takes place in the Parliament.
As per the bench, the right to reject candidates in elections is a part of fundamental right conferred by the Constitution in article 19 (freedom of speech and expression).

What are current provisions in Representation of People Act for expressing dissatisfaction?

Under the existing provisions of Section 49(O) of the Representation of People Act, if a voter does not want to cast his vote, he has to inform the presiding officer of his intention of not voting, who in turn would make an entry in the relevant rule book after taking the signature of the said elector. The problem with this provision is that it violates the concept of secret ballot.



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