World Bulletin/News Desk
In a landmark ruling on Friday, India's top court gave citizens the right to cast negative votes against candidates and reject all candidates contesting the polls.
The Supreme Court (SC) ordered the election commission to provide a 'none-of-the-above' (NOTA) option at the end of the candidate list in electronic voting machines and ballot papers to express their rejection of all candidates running in any given poll.
The court said that negative voting would "foster purity" and "vibrancy of elections," as it would ensure wide participation on the part of those not satisfied with the candidates in the election ring.
Indian voters could now express their opinion by rejecting the contenders, it said, which would help put unscrupulous impersonators out of the polls.
"When a large number of voters will press [the] NOTA button, it will force political parties to choose better candidates. Negative voting would lead to systemic change in polls," the apex court declared.
Elaborating the point further, the court said the right to reject candidates in elections was part of the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression, which is enshrined in the Indian Constitution.
The election commission said it would implement the judgment straight away, saying it would make arrangements to separately compile the number of persons who used the NOTA option.
N. Gopalaswamy, former chief election commissioner, hailed the court ruling as "a great and welcome judgment."
"Hopefully, political parties will take notice and go for candidates with cleaner records," Gopalaswamy told reporters.
With this judgment, India becomes the world's 14th country to allow negative voting.
The bench noted that the concept of negative voting was already in place in 13 countries.
Interestingly, the SC bench, while reading the operative part of the judgment, failed to explain what would happen in the event that NOTA votes outnumbered those garnered by candidates.
Yet it said that the secrecy of negative votes must be maintained by the election commission.
The top court passed the order on public interest litigation filed by the non-governmental People's Union for Civil Liberties, which had argued that voters should be given the right to cast negative votes.
The bench passed the verdict in line with the NGO's plea, asserting that it would further empower voters in exercising their democratic rights.
The verdict comes as part of a series of judgments passed by the top court on electoral reform.
Earlier, the SC had ruled that state and federal lawmakers must be disqualified if convicted of serious crimes.Last Mod: 27 Eylül 2013, 23:34