I am in the process of submitting my university applications, but couldn’t resist the urge to write this post after commenting on Youth Curry’s post on section 49-O.
I first heard about this rule when my room-mate told me about an email which he received which claimed that the section 49-O in the “Constitution” had a provision whereby a voter could register a neutral or a negative vote. Should the number of negative votes be greater than the leading number of non-null votes garnered by a contestant, then such an election would be considered null and void and such a contestant will never be allowed to contest again. I was curious to know more and I found a lot of links similar to these.
Since I didn’t think this was a great idea, I probed a bit.
First thing I found out was the fact that there is NO provision in our Constitution for such a thing.
However, In the document titled “The Conduct of Election Rules, 1961”, there is a section 49-O, which states the following
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.
Clearly there is no mention of the clause which talks about neutral or negative voting. Nor does it talk about the consequence of a voter deciding to legally abstain from voting. But there can be no smoke without fire.
On searching further, I found this document entitled “Proposed Electoral Reforms”. Section 7, in the Part 1 of this document titled Neutral/Negative Voting has the following proposal:
The Commission recommends that the law should be amended to specifically provide for negative / neutral voting. For this purpose, Rules 22 and 49B of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 may be suitably amended adding a proviso that in the ballot paper and the particulars on the ballot unit, in the column relating to names of candidates, after the entry relating to the last candidate, there shall be a column “None of the above”, to enable a voter to reject all the candidates, if he chooses so. Such a proposal was earlier made by the Commission in 2001 (vide letter dated 10.12.2001).
Again, we must keep in mind that this is a proposal made by the Chief Election Commisioner of India to the Prime Minster. As wikipedia points out, it may not have been turned into a law yet.
Also, there is a website by the name http://www.49-o.info/ which has further clarification on this. At the bottom of the page, there is an update which says the following:
Update: 02:49 pm – 8th December 2008 – Information courtesy WebIndia123
The Election Commission (EC) today said even if the number of voters who refrained from voting is higher than the margin of the winning candidate, the election cannot be declared invalid.
The Commission note said under Rule 49-O, voters has an option not to vote in the election after he has been identified at the polling station and his name has been registered in Registers of Voters (Form-17A). The Presiding Officer (RO) shall there upon make a note to that effect against the name of the voter and obtain his signature or the thumb impression in case of an illiterate. In such case, the voters who exercise the option of not voting in the election under Rule 49-O would only be deemed to have abstained themselves from voting under the law, the candidate who secures highest number of valid votes polled, irrespective of his winning margin, is declared elected, the Commission note added.
But I have my suspicions about the veracity of this information since I am unable to understand the reason behind printing this update in fine-print. Nor am I able to understand why the source has not been cited. I have sent them an e-mail regarding this and I am awaiting a reply. Will update as soon as I get one.
Anyway, I hope this sheds more light on the issue.
Personally, I feel that should this proposal become a law, this should be our last resort not the first one. There is still time left for the Lok Sabha elections. Since we’re concerned about our country,
- why don’t we bother to check out the agenda of each of the contesting political parties ?
- Why cannot we talk to the candidates of our respective constituencies ?
- Why can’t we make them understand our needs and demands and ask for accountability ?
These would be a far more constructive and a proactive ways to send across the message that the public cares than resorting to the reactive “I Vote Nobody”.
And for that lame argument that a few people cannot make a difference, I would urge you to read the first few chapters of the book “The Parliamentary System” by Arun Shourie. You’ll get an idea as to how many of our politicians come to power by gaining the acceptance of mere 10-15% of the total population, because the rest don’t bother to vote.
I would say,
- Let us direct our energies to confirm if the proposal has been made into a rule, instead of indulging and spreading half-researched myths.
- Let us direct our energies towards spreading the awareness regarding the importance of the Vote.
- Let us not forget that we’re a democracy and an educated vote is going to make a difference.
So Register yourself and Vote for a Better India.