Quashing a June 2014 notification of the Election Commission that had allowed use of the None Of The Above (NOTA) option in Rajya Sabha elections, the Supreme Court Tuesday said “NOTA will destroy the concept of value of a vote and representation and encourage defection that shall open the doors for corruption which is a malignant disorder”.
A bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud said: “The introduction of NOTA in indirect elections may, on a first glance, tempt the intellect but on keen scrutiny, it falls to the ground, for it completely ignores the role of an elector in such an election and fully destroys the democratic value.”
The ruling came on a petition by Shailesh Parmar, who was Congress chief whip in Gujarat, challenging the EC decision to allow NOTA in Rajya Sabha polls.
NOTA was introduced in Lok Sabha polls following a 2013 decision of the Supreme Court. The EC extended this to Rajya Sabha polls via a notification in January 2014. Thereafter, biennial elections to 76 Rajya Sabha seats across 21 states in 2014, eight seats across three states in 2015, 70 seats across 21 states in 2016, 10 seats across three states in 2017, and 58 seats across 16 states this year have been held.
The NOTA option was provided on the ballot paper after the name of the last candidate in each of these biennial elections held since 2014.
Justifying its decision, the EC told the court that the 2013 order did not make any distinction between direct and indirect elections. But the court found the argument “erroneous” and ruled that its order was limited to direct elections.
The bench said that while NOTA “may look attractive but its practical application defeats the fairness ingrained in an indirect election. More so where the elector’s vote has value and the value of the vote is transferrable”.
The judges observed that “the option of NOTA may serve as an elixir in direct elections but in respect of the election to the Council of States which is a different one… it would not only undermine the purity of democracy but also serve the Satan of defection and corruption”.
The bench said that an analyses of the exercise of NOTA in the voting process of the Council of States “where open ballot is permissible and secrecy of voting has no room and further where the discipline of the political party/parties matters, it is clear that such choice will have a negative impact”.
“An elector, though a single voter, has a quantified value of his vote and the surplus votes are transferable. There is existence of a formula for determining the value of the vote. The concept of vote being transferable has a different connotation.”
“It further needs to be stated that a candidate after being elected becomes a representative of the State and does not represent a particular constituency. The cumulative effect of all these aspects clearly conveys that the introduction of NOTA to the election process for electing members of the Council of States will be an anathema to the fundamental criterion of democracy which is a basic feature of the Constitution,” the bench said.