Hearing a petition filed by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, an NGO, the apex court ruled that the Electronic Voting Machines or EVMs should have a button that will allow the voters to choose “none of the above” option.
The bench of Chief Justice P Sathasivam, Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai and Justice Ranjan Gogoi said that voters should be allowed to reject all candidates standing in an election in his/her constituency.
“Negative voting would foster purity and vibrancy in elections,” the court said.
“Negative voting would lead to systemic change in polls and political parties will be forced to project clean candidates,” the bench added.
“If right to vote is statutory right, right to reject candidate is fundamental right of speech and expression under Constitution,” the court stated further.
The judgement will be implemented immediately, and the “none of the above” option will be included in EVMs and ballot papers to be used in the upcoming state Assembly Elections later this year.
The SC has also instructed the Election Commission to spread the message among voters.
The apex court bench of Justice BN Agrawal (since retired) and Justice GS Singhvi by their February 23, 2009 judgment while referring the matter to a larger bench had framed two questions for the court to examine “whether the right of voter to exercise his choice for the candidate is a necessary concomitant of the voter’s freedom of expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution”.
The court on the second aspect had said, “We are further of the view that width and amplitude of the power of the (Election) Commission under Article 324 needs further consideration by a larger Bench in the light of the (earlier) judgments of this court whereby the elector’s right to be informed about the assets and antecedents of the persons seeking election to the legislature has been duly recognized”.
While the judgement is historic, it will have little impact on the outcome of an election as negative votes will only be recorded on EVMs but not counted.
Those in favour of negative voting have been demanding that re-election should be ordered in a constituency where more than 50 per cent of the voters reject all candidates. At present, the law doesn’t allow that.
In the past, the Election Commission has also backed negative voting.