Updated: December 25, 2015 10:14:48 pm
Coming down heavily on the State Election Commission (SEC), the Gujarat High Court on Friday ordered it to maintain the option of “none of the above” or NOTA for the voters in the Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) in the upcoming elections for local bodies including municipal corporations and panchayats. The court also directed the state government to provide sufficient manpower which may be needed by the SEC to bring back NOTA buttons on EVMs.
The court brushed aside the argument of the SEC that it is difficult to include NOTA at this stage since there are barely three weeks left for the polls. The court held that the work may be difficult but not impossible and since it is the right of the voters to have this option, the commission can’t get away with it.
With this order the SEC will have to bring back NOTA option for the voters for Corporations and Panchayat polls. However, since the state government has not framed law on use of NOTA in municipalities elections, there will not be such an option for the voters.
The division bench of acting chief justice Jayant Patel and justice N V Anjaria passed an order on a petition seeking inclusion of NOTA in the polls for corporation, municipalities and panchayat slated to begin from November 22. The same bench in August had stayed the law making voting compulsory in the local polls.
The petitioner K R Koshti moved an application in the court seeking modification of its order which stayed the compulsory voting. He prayed that the NOTA buttons should be used as it has become a law and the voters have the right to opt for NOTA. After the arguments the bench held that stay order calls for a modification.
“We find that right to vote in favour of NOTA is one of the rights of voters and it so identified by the apex court therefore, we do find that the interim order must be modified to that extent,” the court ordered. The court refused to entertain SEC’s counsel Mihir Thakore’s argument that having NOTA on EVM will become a massive exercise for which the poll officers would need to educated.
The bench said, “The exercise for conducting votes should have begun six months back. But you chose to postpone it. Don’t compel us to say lots of things which we have found in your files but our only concern is why should the voters be deprived of their right. Soon after we stayed the compulsory voting you should have moved the court.”
Thakore argued that the facility of NOTA buttons in EVMs have been deactivated following the stay order on compulsory voting. He said if NOTA has to be maintained in 21 days all poll officers will have to be educated. Defending the stand of SEC Thakore said that there is no sufficient left for this massive exercise.
However, the bench was of the opinion that if SEC needs manpower to complete the exercise needed to bring back NOTA it can take help from the state government. The bench also refused to stay its order after Thakore pleaded to approach Supreme Court.
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