So, you can reject candidates, the Supreme Court has directed. Isn’t that the same as not showing up at the polling booth?
There’s a significant difference. Not exercising your franchise leaves the possibility that your vote is misused through proxy voting, not as uncommon as one might imagine.
Two, the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, already gives Indians the right to not vote for any candidate, through Section 49 (O). Under this section, used by a minuscule number of well-informed voters, voters can have their finger inked, then tell the presiding officer that he/she does not wish to vote for any of the candidates and this is then recorded in a register. This implies that a voter declares openly that he is rejecting the candidates.
The SC decision provides to citizens the right to a secret ballot even while exercising his right to reject all the candidates.
Anna Hazare had campaigned for 'napasandi' in elections during his campaign in 2011. Is that the same?
His coinage ‘Napasandi’, translating simply as ‘dislike’, refers to the right to reject. The only difference is that the Hazare campaign for the right to reject also simultaneously demanded the use of a ‘totaliser’ system in counting, which means that no candidate can find out which polling booth he fared the worst in. This offers a more complete secrecy to voters, Hazare’s supporters have said.
Is the SC pioneering the Right to Reject or have other countries gone down this road?
Russia had an option but abolished it in 2006. Pakistan introduced the option in 2013 but later the Election Commission of Pakistan rejected this.
Is it really such a good thing, all things considered?
Pressure on political parties to field meritorious candidates is always welcome, but merely introducing the right to reject would hardly suffice on its own. If the number of those who select the None Of The Above option exceeds the number of those who voted for any candidate, a candidate with a minor fraction of votes polled could still emerge victorious. An amendment in law would be required.
Have people ever used the 49 (O) option?
A small but growing number of voters has in fact been using the 49 (O) option. Activists of AGNI in the suburbs of Mumbai reported that in the last municipal election, about 200 voters informed them of having either successfully registered their no-vote or informed of hurdles in trying to do so – either election officials unaware of the rule or voters demanding a 49 (0) form (there is none, only a register to sign in).