“Most people think that Right to Reject has been granted”

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Dr. Quraishi

Dr. Quraishi has been involved, as part of the three members Commission, with control, direction and superintendence of the conduct of elections to the offices of President and Vice-President of India, General Elections to the Lok Sabha – 2009 and the elections to the State Assemblies...

He has brought a special focus on people’s participation, voters’ education and youth involvement in the electoral process through scientific research and interventions. He has been an ardent proponent for lending strength to the grassroot level election functionaries

In an exclusive and free-wheeling interview to Legal Era, he explains the difference between NOTA and Right to Reject and appeals to the government to wake up and come up with the long pending reforms if it would not like to lose this initiative to the judiciary.

Q : Are people carrying a wrong notion about NOTA?

A : The Supreme Court judgment on the long pending demand for the right to reject has created a lot of stir and excitement. However, it seems that the meaning of the order has not been correctly appreciated. Most people appear to think that Right to Reject has been granted. It will be disappointing for them to know that their celebration is premature. It is true that the SC has asserted that just as the people have the right to express their preference for a candidate, they also have a right to express their negative opinion. This can be exercised through an extra button on the electronic voting machine (EVM) to say 'None of The Above' or NOTA, for short. SC has directed the Election Commission to introduce the button on the EVM. However, the NOTA votes will not amount to Right to Reject.

Q : What will be the effect of this innovation? Will it mean that all the candidates of the constituency will stand rejected/defeated if the NOTA votes exceed the highest vote getter?

A : The answer is a clear 'No'. To illustrate the point, even if the NOTA votes are 99 out of 100, and candidate X gets just one vote, X is the winner, having obtained the only valid vote. All other 99 will be treated as invalid or 'no votes'. The question arises that if it does not affect the result, what then is the advantage? Why was Election Commission demanding it in the first place? The reason for Election Commission was not to create the right to reject. It was only to ensure the secrecy of the voter what amounts to abstention (and also to ensure that nobody casts a bogus vote in his place by impersonation). Both these requirements have been met by the SC order and Election Commission has reason to be happy.

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