Sunday, 12 July 2020

Effectuate Right To Negative Voting

Updated: October 13, 2012 10:57 am

At the outset, I must make my stand clear that I personally am a great votary of right to negative voting or the right to reject all the candidates if people feel that they don’t consider them suitable enough to vote for them. There should be no compulsory option of opting for the least unsuitable. I don’t think that heavens will fall if this right to negative voting is effectuated after due deliberations and consultations with eminent legal wizards. I am certain that a majority of them will bat in favour of effectuating the right to negative voting.

The Supreme Court way back in 1993 had stated: “Voting is formal expression of will or opinion by the person entitled to exercise the right on the subject or issue in question and that the right to vote means right to exercise the right in favour of or against motion or resolution. Such a right implies the right to remain neutral as well.” This further strengthens the argument in favour of right to negative voting which in the present circumstances is the crying need of the hour. Why is Anna Hazare able to gather millions of people in just one call? It is because many people have suffered immensely as tones and tones of taxpayers money is swindled by many leaders including some chief ministers for unstated or not required purposes.

The concept of negative voting is not an entirely new concept and many countries have already tested and implemented it successfully. It would be pertinent to mention here that right to negative voting already exists in countries like Russia and Ukraine. This despite the fact that both these countries have just recently opted the mode of conducting democratic elections. It is noteworthy that the USA also has this negative voting in place in many of its states. What one finds particularly interesting about America is that if the option of ‘none of the above’ is opted by most of the voters then no one is deemed to have been elected and a byelection with new candidates is to be conducted within a short span of 60 days. It is but obvious that if in India also a similar module is adopted, the leaders contesting the elections will feel compelled to deliver on ground and not just fill their own coffers with people’s money as we are most unfortunately witnessing right now. More and more people having criminal background are entering Parliament which is most concerning. This all the more necessitates the introduction of right to negative voting.

I must now, on a concluding note, quote a top juirist whom even his critics admire—Justice Rajindar Sachar who is a former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court: “Though the right to negative voting is provided in the election law, it cannot be effectuated unless the rules are amended by the Central government. Not doing so, in fact, goes against the mandate of the Parliament’s Act—a serious breach of constitutional obligation on the part of the executive—hardly a commendable action. Thus, it is incumbent on the Central government to provide an effective mechanism for negative voting. As a matter of fact, such a provision exists under the rules framed by the Central government since long, though hardly anyone, including the presiding officer, acts on it. Thus, under Rule 49 (o) of the Conduct of Election Rules 1961, a voter has to inform the presiding officer of his intention not to vote—the presiding officer makes an entry in the remark column in form 17 and the voter has to sign the form which is also to be countersigned by the presiding officer.”

“This right was hardly exercised because it was then ballot voting, and in this process the secrecy of voting could not be maintained: polling agents and other officers would know about it. The majority of voters do not wish openly to get into conflict with political parties, especially their goons, and, therefore, per force, they voted for what they thought was the least undesirable. But when we switched over to the present system of using the electronic voting machine (EVM), it became easier to provide a mechanism in a manner that the secrecy of voting was not violated by just providing one more slot in the voting machine as ‘None of the Above’. The Election Commission commendably has been writing to the Central government (which alone can amend the rule and provide for this method) since 2001. But, regrettably, there has been deafening silence from different political parties and governments.”

If the right to negative voting is implemented in letter and spirit, it will herald a revolutionary change and arm citizens with the most potent weapon of rejecting them if they are not serious in addressing the grievances of the people and will also serve in keeping politicians on tenterhooks which is undoubtedly a very vibrant sign for a good and effective democratic system.

By Sanjeev Sirohi

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