Right to Reject is Section 49(O) reformed: Detailed report

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Judgement
New Delhi, Sept 27: By now, all of us know that Supreme Court's judgement on the 'Right to Reject' is a reform that both the Election Commission and the judicial rule book have been striving for.

In a letter dating back to 10.12.2001, the then counsel for the Commission Meenakshi Arora submitted before the Supreme Court that the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) can seek amendments in teh EVMs to enable the voters to exercise their rights for negative voting.

On the other hand, Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 section 49 (O) says,"Elector deciding not to vote.-If an elector, after his electoral roll number has been duly entered in the register of voters in Form-17A and has put his signature or thumb impression thereon as required under sub-rule (1) of rule 49L, decided not to record his vote, a remark to this effect shall be made against the said entry in Form 17A by the presiding officer and the signature or thumb impression of the elector shall be obtained against such remark."

Section 49 (O) is said to have been practised in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.

Need for Rule 49 (O) and 'None of the Above' (NOTA)

As discussed earlier, both the elements are instrumental in enabling the voters to exercise a secured and private choice of leaders. Like a vote of approval, it is equally important to have a vote of disapproval or rejection by the candidate.

The NOTA option is nothing but an official proof or registration of vote of disapproval. What was earlier done through blank Ballot papers would now be done electronically with the NOTA button.

No open declarations, no open threats, the elections can go on peacefully.

Votes cast through Rule 49 (O), what next?

Each of the entries have to be recorded in Form 17-A. According to the directives of the Election Commission of India, the entries should be compiled and recorded (Item 3, Part-I of Form 17C) constituency wise and sent to the Commission. RTI will later display all the information regarding this.

How 49 (O) affects election results?

Instead of absentees not choosing to vote, there would be voters casting their vote for rejection. This will reduce the possibility of ineligible candidates winning with maximum number of votes in the constituency irrespective of the winning margin.

Other countries that practice Right to Reject

The option for the right to reject is offered by a number of countries like Greece, the state of Nevada, Spain, Ukraine and Colombia. Russia and Pakistan had this option, but both had withdrawn it in 2006 and 2013 respectively.

Indian states that have practised this before

As per the Shillong Times, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh have used this option before, but for a very short time.

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