Current MPs
 

Claiming the RIGHT TO REJECT with article 49-O

 

The Aam Aadmi Party has been continuously raising a hue and cry to mandate the law of ‘Right to Reject’ during the electoral polls. The ‘Right to Reject’ law empowers citizens to deny his/her vote to any of the candidates, and choose ‘None of the Above’ option, which implies that they do not deem any of the candidates fit of governing them. If this button gets the majority of total votes, the elections to that constituency will be cancelled and fresh elections will be held within a month. The parties and candidates rejected in the cancelled elections will have to forfeit their right to contest again in the re-elections. 

However, the passing of this law has been rejected in the Parliament, causing the citizens feel shackled, as they find themselves forced to cast a vote, even though they do not entirely support that candidate.

What people don’t know is that there is an alternative to this law which is the Rule 49-O, in The Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961. It states that- ‘If an elector does not wish to cast his vote, he can record this fact with the presiding polling officer and leave without wasting his valuable vote’.

Unlike, ‘Right to Reject’ this cannot lead to cancellation of elections. At present, in an election, a winner will be declared irrespective of the number of 'non-votes'. However, a note of every 'non-vote' will be made with the Election Officer, and the total number of non-voters will, presumably, be available under the RTI.

The implications of Rule 49- O are not as satisfactory as those of ‘Right to Reject’…and though it is enables at least some choice, the fact that a willing voter will go back home without casting his/her vote is a big question mark on the definition of a Democratic India. Limiting one’s choice in not equivalent to free choice.

What we can hope for is that the huge number of ‘non-votes’ in such a case will definitely lead to reconsideration of the ‘Right to Reject’, especially if the Government wants the Indian citizens to feel that they live in a true democracy.

 

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