Opposition protests against EC notification on NOTA option for Rajya Sabha polls, disrupts proceedings

New Delhi: The Rajya Sabha was on Tuesday rocked by Opposition protests over an Election Commission (EC) notification that provides the MLAs the 'None of the Above' (NOTA) option in the vote for the elections to the Upper House.

Angry members of the Congress and other Opposition parties forced adjournments of the proceedings as they questioned the NOTA provision for these elections.

Significantly, the protests come at a time when a high profile battle for Rajya Sabha seats from Gujarat is round the corner involving heavy-weights like BJP chief Amit Shah, HRD minister Smriti Irani and veteran Congressman Ahmed Patel.

As soon as the House Assembled at noon, deputy leader of the Congress Anand Sharma said the decision to provide the NOTA option had been made without amending the Constitution or the law as per the direction of the Election Commission.

"It vitiates the election... Constitution has not been amended. Representation of People Act has not been amended. NOTA has been introduced...unless Constitution is amended, how can this be done," Sharma asked.
He said the vacancies are notified by the House and asked how could a new provision be introduced in between.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Chairman Hamid Ansari suggested that the matter be taken up with the Election Commission and tried to proceed with the Question Hour. However, the Opposition kept on raising the issue.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who is the Leader of the House, said that from what he understood, there was a Supreme Court judgement which provided for the NOTA option.

"The judgement came several years before this government came to power. The Election Commission pursuant to that judgement had issued some notification under Article 324.

Article 324 covers all election in this country and therefore that's a circular which they issued, not now, but earlier," Jaitley said.

He said if somebody is aggrieved with the circular, he has his own options.

"How is Question Hour of the Rajya Sabha concerned with it," Jaitley asked, indicating that the issue was being raised during that hour. He also said that the decisions of the Election Commission can be set aside by courts.

However, Congress members continued to protest, with Sharma saying that the elections to the offices of the President and the Vice President were related and the ballot paper for the former too should have had the NOTA option.

Keen to continue with the Question Hour, Ansari said if the matter involved the Rajya Sabha, it would be looked into. Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad then stood up and termed the matter as "very serious" and sought to know whether there was a separate Constitution for Gujarat as compared to the rest of India.

With the protest continuing, Ansari adjourned the House for ten minutes.

However, when it met again, several other Opposition members also raised their voice on the issue. Satish Chandra Mishra (BSP) said it seemed the rules were not proper and the election of three members to the Upper House may get cancelled. He sought that the issue be taken up.

Ram Gopal Yadav (SP) said that important people were contesting the election and it needs to be looked into. Anand Sharma said that if a change required amending a legislation, it has to be done by Parliament.

Ansari said that he was caught between lawyers of eminence from both sides and again sought that queries under the Question Hour be taken up. However, as the protests continued, the House was adjourned till 2 PM.

Meanwhile, an Election Commission official, on the condition of anonymity, said that a provision to have the NOTA option in the Rajya Sabha polls came in to force in 2014, after a Supreme Court order said that NOTA button should be installed on electronic voting machines.

The official also pointed out that MLAs of a particular party have to show their marked ballot papers to the authorised agent of the party before putting it in the ballot box.

Updated Date: Aug 01, 2017 15:32 PM

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