FIVE YEARS after the Supreme Court ordered the Election Commission (EC) to introduce a ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) button on all electronic voting machines (EVMs), Maharashtra has taken the next step. In a landmark order, the Maharashtra State Election Commission (MSEC) on Tuesday ruled that should NOTA ever get the maximum number of votes in an election, then none of the contesting candidates will be declared as elected and fresh elections would be held.
The MSEC, which supervises elections to panchayats and municipalities in the state, has ruled that the order will be applicable to polls and bypolls to all municipal corporations, municipal councils and nagar panchayats, with immediate effect.
MSEC Secretary Shekhar Channe said this was perhaps the first time that the option was being introduced anywhere in the country. Residents of Ahmednagar and Dhule in north Maharashtra, where municipality polls are to take place on December 9, will be the first to be provided the option, said Channe.
Following a SC verdict, the MSEC had on September 29, 2013, introduced the NOTA button in local body polls from November 2013. But its order had contained a clause stating, “While announcing the result, without taking into consideration the NOTA votes, the contesting candidate with the highest number of votes must be declared a winner. Even for cases where NOTA has polled more votes than the candidate with the highest votes, there won’t be any restriction in declaring the latter a winner.”
On Tuesday, the MSEC modified this clause, contending that the existing arrangement “does not reflecte the negative votes in an election result”.
For local body polls in Maharashtra, the MSEC has now ruled that the NOTA is to be treated as a “fictional electoral candidate”. “If in any election, all the contesting candidates individually receive lesser votes than the ‘fictional electoral candidate’ i.e. NOTA, then none of the contesting candidates will be declared as elected and fresh elections shall be held for the post.”
Ever since the NOTA was introduced, rights’ activists and NGOs have been seeking the NOTA winner option to empower voters. While the demand has also been to disqualify all the contesting candidates in such a case, the MSEC order has stopped short of implementing this.
“The SC had wished that the introduction of NOTA will improve the electoral process through increased voter participation, compulsion on political parties to field good candidates, and reflection of negative votes in an election result. But the MSEC finds that the implementation of NOTA does not give effect to the judgment since it has not led to any of these. Further it does not honour and respect the majority will and opinion of the people expressed through NOTA, while violating the accepting principle by declaring a candidate as election even though s/he has secured lesser votes than NOTA,” stated the MSEC order.
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