SC Confirms: Gujarat Rajya Sabha Polls To Include NOTA Option

Bruno Cirelli
Agosto 3, 2017

Supreme Court on Thursday refused to stay the Election Commission's notification, a plea by the Congress, to allow "None of the Above" (NOTA) option in the Gujarat Rajya Sabha elections.

The apex court, however, agreed to examine constitutional validity of EC's notification to give an option of NOTA in elections. The SC also stated that the results of the upcoming RS polls will be declared as per schedule.

The Congress party's plea was mentioned before a bench of justices Dipak Misra, Amitava Roy and AM Khanwilkar by senior counsel Kapil Sibal, who sought an urgent hearing on the issue.

The discussion over NOTA has reached new importance in light of the upcoming Rajya Sabha elections in Gujarat as 6 six Gujarat Congress MLAs quit from the party ahead of the elections. The Congress had earlier alleged that BJP was trying to intimidate its MLAs by threatening them and their families.

On August 8, elections will be held for three seats in Gujarat. Rajput was formerly with the Congress but after his mentor Shankersinh Vaghela parted ways with the party, he too quit and joined BJP instead.

As per government officials, the directions to use NOTA in Rajya Sabha elections were enforced in January 2014 after the Supreme Court in 2013 made it mandatory to have NOTA option in EVMs. The court also asked the ECI to respond to the petition filed by the Congress in two weeks.

The court, however, remained unimpressed as senior advocate Ashok Desai, maintained that many elections have been conducted with NOTA since 2014. It said since secret ballot was not provided for this election, NOTA will not serve any goal.

The court said the Election Commission issued a notification in January 2014 and another circular in 2015. We do not understand why the Congress has raised pitfalls now, the court also observed.

The court also noted in RS polls, electors as rules show their ballot papers to party representative, so there would not be any difficulty.

The saffron party said that since there was no secrecy for the voting in Rajya Sabha election, so, the objective of NOTA is not much of use.

There are three vacancies of RS seats in Gujarat and four candidates, including Congress leader Ahmed Patel, are fighting for the RS berth. If a voter (MLA) defies the party directive and casts the ballot for someone else or uses the NOTA option, he can not be disqualified as a legislator. While the party is free to take disciplinary action against the lawmaker, the vote can not be canceled and would still be counted.

It has also made a decision to issue a whip to all the Congress MLAs, including Shankersinh Vaghela, who resigned last month to ensure that Ahmed Patel is voted back into the Rajya Sabha.

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