Right to Cast Negative Vote, Will This Improve Democracy: Civil Services Mentor Magazine – November 2013


  • Right to Cast Negative Vote, Will This Improve Democracy (Only
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India’s top court ruled that voters should be given the right
to cast negative votes against candidates in future elections. The Supreme Court
ordered the Election Commission to provide the option in electronic voting
machines and paper ballots. The ruling came after a petition was filed by the
People’s Union for Civil Liberties, a rights group. N. Gopalasami, a former
chief election commissioner, said the court’s decision would force political
parties to select clean candidates. Negative votes will not impact election
results because they won’t be counted, but they will be made public, Gopalasami
said. The Supreme Court has been trying to clean up Indian politics. It ruled in
July that convicted lawmakers must be removed from office.

The apex court directed the Election Commission to provide
‘none of the above options’ at the end of the list of candidates in electronic
voting machines (EVMs) and ballot papers to allow voters to reject those
contesting polls. A bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam said that
negative voting would foster purity and vibrancy of elections and ensure wide
participation as people who are not satisfied with the candidates in the fray
would also turn up to express their opinion rejecting contestants. It said that
the concept of negative voting would bring a systemic change in the election
process as the political parties will be forced to project clean candidates in
polls. The bench noted that the concept of negative voting is prevalent in 13
countries and even in India, parliamentarians are given an option to press the
button for abstaining while voting takes place in the House. The court said
right to reject candidates in elections is part of fundamental right to freedom
of speech and expression given by the Constitution to Indian citizens. It said
that democracy is all about choice and significance of right of citizens to cast
negative voting is massive.

With the concept of negative voting, the voters who are
dissatisfied with the candidates in the fray would turn up in large number to
express their opinion which would put unscrupulous elements and impersonators
out of the polls, it said.  The bench, while reading out the operative
portion of the judgement, did not throw light on a situation in case the votes
cast under no option head outnumber the votes got by the candidates. It said
that secrecy of votes cast under the no option category must be maintained by
the Election Commission. The court passed the order on a PIL filed by an NGO,
People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) which had submitted that voters be
given the right to negative voting. Agreeing with the NGO’s plea, the bench
passed the path-breaking verdict and introduced the concept of negative voting
in the election process, saying that it would further empower the voters in
exercising their franchise. The latest verdict is part of series of judgements
passed by the apex court on the election process.

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