Is Negative Voting SC's answer to Cabinet's shield for convicted MPs?

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SC answers back with Negative Voting
New Delhi, Sept 27: When the cabinet had its way with the Supreme Court in overruling its judgement, mandating the immediate disqualification of lawmakers convicted for criminal offences punishable with a jail term of more than 2 years, the latter chose a different path to maintain the sanctity of democracy. In a landmark judgement today, it issued the 'Right to Reject' or 'negative voting' rights to the people of India, directing the Election Commission to introduce an option for the same.

Probably a clear indication to the political parties, the move is a step ahead in the victory of democracy. People can now choose their leaders, depending on their performance, and also exercise their voting rights without any inhibitions. EXperts believe that this will also improve the voters turnout as people would have an option to reject all the candidates if necessary.

M Gopalaswamy, former Election Commissioner, said," it is a welcome judgement as parties would be more careful now. They would place their best candidates as people's representatives."

Offenders who need to worry

The Cabinet's overruling of the Supreme Court's judgement was a relief for about one-third of the MPs who face criminal charges, rather Godsend for many like Lalu Prasad Yadav, former railway minister and Rashtriya Janata Dal chief, accused for the fodder scam and Rashid Masood, the Congress Rajya Sabha MP convicted for corruption in a city court.

According to a survey undertaken by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR), 31% of the sitting Lok Sabha members and an equal number of MLAs have criminal offence records. The survey included 62,847 candidates who had contested the polls since 2004 in various capacities for the LOk Sabha and the Assembly seats.

ADR explains,"Out of these 62,847 candidates, 11,063 (who constitute 18 per cent of the total strength) candidates have declared criminal cases against them, while 5,253 (eight per cent) candidates have serious criminal charges. Thirty per cent or 162 out of the total 543 MPs in the current Lok Sabha are facing criminal charges, while 76 face serious charges. Moreover, 1,258 (31 per cent) MLAs are facing criminal charges across India. While 23 per cent of those with serious criminal records won, only 12 per cent of the candidates without criminal records won."

Implementation to begin with Chhattisgarh, Mizoram, and Madhya Pradesh

A full stop to rigging?

The jarring figures discussed above clearly indicate how exercising the 'right to vote' is being influenced by factors like rigging and 'use of force'. The SC judgement can finally put an hold to it. With dwindling and uncertain figures on the voter turnout, elections can now witness a uniform participation by the voters. Rigging might come toa full-stop, given the fact that there would be no gaps in the voter list. Use of force could also be curbed as voters would cast their votes willingly.

Implementation, a problem?

Absolutely not, said Gopalaswamy. Introducing an extra button is a matter of minutes. All EVMs already have a button at the last that could be designed for 'None-of-the-above'. The implementation would start with the states of Chhattisgarh, Mizoram, Madhya Pradesh and Mizoram that have elections round the corner.

Acknowledging the appreciation from the Election Commission, the Supreme Court said,"Democracy is all about choice and in a vibrant democracy like India, the move will ensure free and fair polls."

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