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Published : October 02, 2012 | Author : deeksh
Category : Constitutional Law | Total Views : 5420 | Rating :

Deeksha Chaudhary Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Mohindra Kothi The Mall, Patiala -147001 Punjab Pursuing semester 6 ( 3rd year ) of B.A.LLB(Hons.)

Whether Indians in Pressing Need for Negative Voting: Analysis of  the Concept and Feasibility In India

“Politics is a master science” quoted immortal Aristotle. Yes theoretically as well as practically speaking politics was and no-doubt at present is and in future as well it will maintain its status quo how so ever critics may refute and rebut it. On a lighter note the title ‘master science’ I think would be appearing quite odious to many people of our country. Master science!!! My foot!!! After all in India you don’t have any per se educational qualification to enter in politics and this ‘struggle for power’ has worsened itself with each passing day of our maturing democracy. But at the same time Indians know very well that politics as a discipline is truly a master science with all other factors innately connected to it; as evolution and development of all other facets of society depend largely upon stable, transparent and equitable political scenario in a nation. The quote is converting itself into unyielding reality once again with the shocking working of Parliament, series of scams in UPA –II regime and poignant tussle of BJP –UPA in the recent times which has ultimately raised big eyebrows of outside world over Indian democracy . The UPA claims that BJP is at fault and in this blame –game, it is the trust of people in the representatives which they have chosen is being shaken. And what to say about the economic as well as social reforms which were waiting in form of bills to be passed by Parliament and are now eating the heap of dust.

Let us look at the not so late recent assembly elections in five states i.e. Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Manipur. The states whose soils were lying hushed since long we saw suddenly being transformed into battlefields with large congregation of politicians from plethora of parties. The leaders no doubts from all popular political parties toiled hard to grab as much votes as possible , with lofty plans in their electoral manifestoes to appease as much as possible the so called ‘confused’ voters of states. Yup confused …Confused by the fact of multiplicity of parties and leaders. We even saw some faces which become visible only during seasonal times of election… these faces don’t need any mention. The obvious question which rotates my mind is that why like a showstopper they appear in times of election and when time comes to answer any question or take any responsibility or expound any point, they very easily vanish. Thus what we actually Indians need is a whip hand to regulate these politicians to whom once we had vested them with power and now are making arbitrary use of their power. Our state Haryana though in 2012 did not face assembly elections but in coming June 2005 our beloved state will again become same battlefield for political parties and leaders. So let us all the citizens of Haryana engage ourselves in analysing one of our most precious rights i.e. Right to Vote.

The elections if legitimately construed are considered to be the largest festivals of democracy by the experts across the globe which lay down the edifice of democratic principles in governmental and administrative machinery. The D-Day gives the voters of the country most stellar right to choose their representative in the government through their own free will. But the fact of the matter is the conundrum which we Indians still have been unable to solve even after sixty five years of established democracy on Indian soil: “Does my vote really holds any damn significance”??? The statement gets backing from the low voter-turnout ratio since many decades in both general as well as assembly elections .Though the recent state elections really saw an increased turnout as compared to earlier general as well as assembly elections through serious efforts by Election Commission but still we are far behind the much needed as well as much possible mark of voter –turnout in our country.

Centre Pushing High For Electoral Reforms At Present: Formation Of Core Committee On Electoral Reforms
The need for electoral reforms which has strappingly been felt since long time by the strong cohorts of democracy and those in favour accountable government, have finally made government to ponder seriously on this issue; and introduce the reforms, in area-which is concerned with one of the most valuable rights i.e. Right to vote. The Core Committee has been formed by the Legislative department of the Ministry of Law and Justice to bring about electoral reforms in the country by amending the concerned laws. The core committee will work as nodal committee to bring about the electoral reforms and will facilitate the Government in preparing a report suggesting concrete ways in which our election system can be strengthened. The Election Commission of India is also a co-sponsor in this. The background paper on electoral reforms has also been released by this core committee. To get an expanded idea the paper reads its prime purpose as:

“The purpose of this paper is to provide background information on issues in our electoral process and outline some electoral reform options that have been considered in the past, in order to serve as a platform for a renewed national dialogue on electoral reforms”.

Regional And National Consultations By The Core Committee
Now, the Core Committee has even put its impressive plans into action by holding the Regional Consultations and National Conferences. The Core Committee in co-sponsorship with the Election Commission has started organizing regional consultations at seven places covering the whole country to discuss the issues relating to electoral reforms. These consultations are aimed at eliciting views and suggestions from different category of citizens such as civil society, political parties, journalists, legal experts and luminaries and government officials who have experience in conduct of elections, participating in elections, academics etc. Till now six regional consultations on electoral reforms have been completed that are; Bhopal, Kolkata, Mumbai, Lucknow, Chandigarh and Bengaluru, North-Eastern region at Guwahati on the 12th June, 2011 for the benefit of the people in that region. The Legislative Department has also put up the tentative proposals on electoral reforms on its website seeking suggestions/comments across all cross sections of the society. As a result of these initiatives, views have been gathered from the stakeholders, who inter-alia included leaders and workers of the political parties, legislators, legal luminaries, representatives of NGOs etc. After chairing the recent seventh regional consultation meeting on electoral reforms in Guwahati, the Law Minister will set up a committee, which will submit the draft proposal, in consultations with the Election Commission of India, to the government either in the Monsoon Session of Parliament or latest by December 2011. Thus we can expect an amended law after this deadline. In these regional consultations the cogent issues like criminalisation of politics , anti defection law have been discussed and suggestions were given by many legal experts like Solicitor –General , Union Law Minister , famous academicians Law Professors, advocates and retired Judges etc .to discuss ways to improvise electoral system.

Now one of the most significant and controversial issues amongst all these which has the capacity to give blow to the government and may be titled as savior of democracy is the Right to Negative voting which actually most recently had come into limelight during the last elections in 2009 and had been bluntly and strongly opposed by the Centre. The background paper in a way itself admits the dire need for negative voting by iterating that:

The criminalisation of politics, widespread corruption in the system, and use of violence, voter intimidation, etc. may result in there being no desirable candidates within those contesting elections in a particular constituency. Currently there is no way for voters to express their dislike for all candidates. The lack of such a provision may further contribute to the decay in the system in such cases by encouraging only those voters who support such compromised candidates to vote, returning those same leaders to power again and again.

What Is Actually Negative Voting???
To the wonder of many the country having the World’s lengthiest and according to legal experts one of the best Constitution of the world as well as the country having Representation of People Act, 1950 (a legislation which primarily governs the elections and rights of voters in the country) has a provision to empower the citizens of the nation with the whip hand to check the evils in the political arena which our country is presently facing rather wrongly quoting, facing since many generations. To make voting a real and legitimate exercise, there is a provision to tackle this kind of situation in case none of the candidates seems attractive or of intrinsic merit to the voter. In most simple words negative/ neutral voting means allowing voters to reject all of the candidates by selection of a “none of the above” option instead of selecting and voting for a particular candidate .In such a system there could be a provision whereas if a certain percentage of the vote is negative/neutral, then the election results could be nullified and a new election conducted. This re-election has been termed as run-off election.

This rule exists in Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 of our country. Rule 49-O lays clearly this rule which reads as:
This provision though generated huge debate in 2009 Lok Sabha elections but indeed it is sorry to state that the awareness regarding this provision that even this kind of rule exists is dismally law.

Expounding further in legal sense “All legitimate consent requires the ability to withhold it.This right gives the voter the option to withhold consent, just as voters can cast a “No” vote on a ballot question. Negative voting is a claim, having “duty” as jural correlatives in Hohfeldian sense, which allows, the voters to reject all the candidates that are in the fray. Right to vote must be liberally construed like Article 19 (1) (a) because Negative voting acts purely as a repository for protest votes, by which citizens who want change can mobilize an anonymous protest candidacy around agendas that are regularly ignored by the established politicians.”.

Why The Provision A Practical Nullity At Present?
Now if this provision already exists in law then why almost no one exercising it or why the enforcement of this law is a practical nullity in our country? Now this question or more precisely actually this right came into limelight when a popular NGO PUCL (Peoples Union for Civil liberties) had filed a PIL in 2004 demanding separate slots in electronic voting machines (EVMs) to give a voter the option of “none of the above”, if the voter does not want to vote for any of the candidates standing in an election. Thus till date we can see that there is no such option in the Electronic Voting Machines were first used 1982 in the by-election to North Paravur Assembly Constituency of Kerala for a limited number of polling stations . According to the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties, rule 49(O) is violative of the Constitutional provisions guaranteed under Article 19 (1)(a) i.e. Freedom of Speech and Expression and Article 21 i.e. Right to Liberty and even violates the secret ballot concept. Rule 94 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, and rule 49-M of conduct of Election Rules, 1961 requires the maintenance of secrecy in voting. Moreover the Universal Declaration of Human Rights mandates that suffrage shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

Thus point worth noting is that election rules state that secrecy of voting shall not be infringed. A person is bound, not to state for which he has voted at an election. So in case of negative voting if a voter informs the presiding officer his disapproval to cast his vote, this clearly violates secret ballot concept and moreover he makes himself vulnerable to threats and intimidation from political parties.

According to Mr. Sanjay Parikh, Supreme Court advocate and PUCL’s lawyer the major loophole is that “Currently, if somebody decides not to vote after signing into the booth, his or her name can be accessed by everybody from a polling officer to a politician” He even said that if the name of the person is kept secret, it could insist on many more to exercise their right “not to vote” although it may not impact the outcome of the election. In other words, it was claimed that if the presiding officer is informed about the intention not to vote, the voter might become vulnerable to intimidation and harassment by the candidates.

To a large extent this situation can be said to be true and practical as who would in absence of separate slot in the EVM, in a country like India would specially ask the presiding officer to cast a negative vote???

Once Again PUCL Pushes For The Same
The mission of the PUCL to introduce negative voting has not been elapsed but again in June 2011 PUCL has pushed the demand for the Negative voting. A PIL has urged the Bombay High Court to direct the Election Commission to introduce electoral reforms by making a provision for "negative vote" in the Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) during elections. The PIL has been filed by a Thane resident, Dr Mahesh Bedekar, who has urged the court to ensure that secrecy of the "negative vote" is maintained during elections as it is not being done under the existing rules. Primarily petitioner,prayed that "negative vote" may be allowed in complete secrecy in the forthcoming civic elections to Thane Municipal Corporation slated to be held in February 2012. The petitioner is challenging the Rule 49(O) of Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 on the ground of denial of "secrecy of vote" and its conflict with Rule 18 of Election Rules in Bombay Provisional Municipal Corporation BPMC Act. The PIL argued that under the existing rules when a voter choose not to cast his/her vote and informed the same to Presiding Officer, his identity is revealed to all including agents of political parties who are supervising the election on behalf of their candidate. The voter thus is in danger of adverse impact due to his negative voting. The Petitioner, therefore, submitted that Rule 49(O) may suitably be modified so as to maintain the secrecy of negative voting and protecting the identity of voters, who intend to express their disbelief in the contesting candidates by not voting in favour of any of them.

Need For A Separate Legislation
Now alone provision of negative voting cannot be said to be suffice if really changes are to be brought and democracy is to be made effective. For the purpose of ensuring the purity of elections, keeping out criminals and other undesirable elements and minimizing the role and importance of caste and religion an alternative method of elections was recommended by Law Commission of India based on negative voting. Legislation needs to be enacted to provide that if negative votes gets highest vote, the election will be countermanded and a fresh election will be ordered. At present even if a person cast’s negative vote through route permitted the negative vote is not taken into consideration. Thus this type of legislation becomes indispensable for really taking into account negative votes.

The idea recommended by Law Commission is this: (a) no candidate should be declared elected unless he obtains at least 50% of the votes cast; (b) the ballot paper shall contain a column at the end which can be marked by a voter who is not inclined to vote for any of the candidates on the ballot paper, which is called hereinafter as `negative vote'. (A voter can cast a negative vote only when he is not inclined to vote for any of the candidates on the ballot paper); (c) for the purposes of calculating the fifty per cent votes of the votes cast, even the negative votes will be treated as `votes cast'; (d)if no person gets 50% or more votes, then there should be a `run-off' election between the two candidates receiving the highest number of votes; (e) in the run-off election too, there should be a provision for a negative vote and even here there should be a requirement that only that candidate will be declared elected who receives 50% or more of the `votes cast' as explained hereinabove; (f) if no candidate gets 50% or more of the votes cast in the run-off, there should be a fresh election from that constituency."

Further it was also clarified by the Law Commission that the requirement of 50% 1 of the votes and the idea of negative vote, are both distinct ideas. It is true that both can be clubbed together but it is not necessary. The requirement of 50% 1 of the vote can be implemented without implementing the idea of negative vote simultaneously, though the idea of negative vote, as explained cannot be implemented without implementing the idea of 50% 1 vote. In its report, the Law Commission submitted its recommendation for Nota in combination with the electoral requirement that a candidate gain at least 50% 1 of the votes cast to be declared the winner.

Legal Tussle: Election Commission V/S Central Government
The Stand Of Election Commission And Law Commission

Major paradox which actually prevails over this issue of negative voting and seriously raises concerns over the Centre’s stand is the contradictory stand of the two Constitutional bodies which actually are in favour of Right of negative/neutral voting to be given to the Indian citizens. Despite the Centre opposing the suggestion in this PUCL case, the Election Commission in a separate affidavit had stated that it had written to the Union Government in Dec. 12, 2001 recommending such a provision. According to the Election Commission, it was for the Centre to make amendments to the Representation of Peoples Act for incorporating the provision, as the EC has no powers to decide such issues on its own. To eradicate this major predicament with a view of recognizing voter’s legitimate rights, in 2001 the Election Commission had approached the then National Democratic Alliance Government with the proposal of introducing negative voting. But there was no response from the government. In July 2004 when the UPA was voted out of power the EC again approached the government with a set of proposals including the proposal of negative voting. The commission was of the opinion that the law should be amended to expressly provide for negative voting/neutral voting. Yet again there was no response from the government. In 2004, the Election Commission had recommended the inclusion of the “vote for none of the above” button in Electronic Voting Machines. Moreover the Law Commission of India first recommended this negative voting in May 1999, in its 170th report on electoral reforms. These provisions, according to the commission, would go “a long way in ensuring purity of elections, keeping out criminals and other undesirable elements and also serve to minimize the role and importance of caste and religion”.

The Decision Still Waited For…
The PUCL case which had instilled a major debate on negative voting and still which continues was referred by the Supreme Court to the larger bench whose final decision is yet to come.

A Bench of Justices B.N. Agrawal and G. S. Singhvi had referred to then Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, for posting it before a larger Bench, the petition by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) for a direction to the Union government and the Election Commission to have a provision for “negative” voting in the Representation of the People Act, giving the voter the right to register his “rejection” of the candidates.

Justice Singhvi, while referring to an earlier verdict stated that:
“The concomitant of the right to vote which is the basic postulate of democracy is two-fold: first, formulation of opinion about the candidates and second, the expression of choice by casting the vote in favour of the preferred candidate at the polling booth.”

A two-judge bench of Justices B N Aggrawal and G S Singhvi felt that the issue needed to be adjudicated by a larger bench as there were certain ‘doubts’ over the interpretation of the ruling passed by a Constitution bench in the Kuldip Nayar v. Union of India case relating to a voter’s right. In Jyoti Basu v. Debi Ghosal, the Court had not treated the right to elect as a fundamental right nor a common right but pure and simple statutory right and expressed the view in the following words:

“With great reverence to the eminent Judges, I would like to clarify that the right to vote, if not a fundamental right, is certainly a constitutional right. The right originates from the Constitution and in accordance with the constitutional mandate contained in Article 326, the right has been shaped by the statute namely, the RP Act.”

In the Union of India v. Association for Democratic Reforms judgment, the apex court held that the jurisdiction of the election commission is wide enough to include all powers necessary for smooth conduct of elections. It had said that Article 324 “is a reservoir of power to act for the avowed purpose of having free and fair elections; that under Article 19 (1) (a) the voter’s right of speech and expression in case of election would include casting of votes”. But the government says that it is not in favour of changing the rule. Arguing for the government, additional solicitor general Amarendra Saran told the Supreme Court recently that Indian voters had no “statutory right to refrain from voting” and hence there was no need to change the rules or introduce the ‘none of the above’ alternative. As the case needed interpretation of citizen’s fundamental rights the matter was adjourned till further hearing before a larger bench consisting of the Chief Justice of India. A larger bench of the Supreme Court will examine the scope of the Election Commission’s power to devise mechanism for enabling voters to exercise the right of negative voting in elections. In Romesh Thappar v. State of Madras the court held that “the freedom laid at the foundation of all democratic organizations, for without free political discussion, no public education, so essential for the proper functioning of the processes of popular government is possible. A freedom of such amplitude might involve risks of abuse. But it is better to leave a few noxious branches to their luxuriant growth than by pruning them away, to injure the vigour of those yielding the proper fruits.”

Thus we can derive that really the question of should negative voting be permitted or not is a complex question to be answered and side by side a stellar question as well which can change the face and definition of democracy in our country. Thus it puts utmost responsibility on the Apex Court to expeditiously decide the case.

International Scenario Regarding Negative Voting
A bench of Chief Justice R.C. Lahoti and judge G.P. Mathur when had issued notice to the Attorney General of India in response to a petition from the People's Union for Civil Liberties seeking such a right for vote had said that one of the factors which would influence the decision regarding whether negative voting should or not be introduced in India would depend upon the stand and position of Negative voting in other democracies around the globe which are already implementing this peculiar mechanism of voting . Palpably this would help in understanding the practical implications and effectiveness and impact of the negative voting.

Now it is pertinent to note in this regard that different versions of negative voting exist in several jurisdictions across the globe. Entities around the world that include "None of the Above" on ballots as standard procedure include the U.S. state of Nevada (None of These Candidates), Ukraine (Against all), Spain (voto en blanco), France (vote blanc), Colombia (voto en blanco), the United States Libertarian Party, the Green Party, the Florida affiliate of the American Patriot Party, and the Debian Project. Russia had such an option on its ballots (Against all) until it was abolished in 2006.

Why A Pressing Need For India: Arguments In Favour Of Negative Voting
Now let us analyze the focal point of this topic that is the factors which compel us to think that there is pressing and dire need for negative voting in our country. The factors which form the rationale and the edifice for practically implementing this dead provision are as follows:

· Sinking voter –turnouts and trust deficit

At the outset let us have a look at the figures of voter-turnout percentage in General Elections in India since the 1st general elections:

General Election
















































































The voter –turnout percentage in India as can be analyzed from above clearly shows that Indian people seem to be least interested in electing the candidates by whom they would be governed. They are getting more and more dragged away from the most precious of all rights which has been guaranteed to them as being citizens of a nation. So I think this situation palpably tells us the dire need of negative voting. Most people have now this mindset that will my vote make any difference??? . Ultimately it is actually the lower class illiterate people who actually go for voting who are actually enticed and lured away by the candidates and the political parties. Is not 48.74 % and 59.7% of the voter –turnout percentage literally a shame???

Sinking voter turnouts point towards potent fact that there is serious lack of confidence and trust of people in the political leaders by whom they would be governed .This clearly also points towards the degree of criminalisation in politics lack of trust of people in candidates who are contesting in the elections.

Another major point to be noted is the voting –behavior of the Young Generation and Youth of India who have just started to see, analyze and understand the political scenario of the Country. Those in age group from 18-25 particularly who have just acquired their right to vote. Certainly the question do they really cast their vote and their voting behavior is an area to be researched upon. We normally hear from the so called popular leaders that youth should and must foreword and participate in the politics of the country but I think they themselves have failed to create an environment which essentially an inspire today’s high tech and knowledge driven youth to come forward and participate in politics….The law making mechanism and its implementation in the country which forms the edifice of any successful country’s system have seriously posed a grave issue. Thus this campaign appears to be nothing but just pretence.

Today in the scenario in which we are living where government has failed to satisfy the needs of the common man this negative voting will really act as a savior. When voters feel disgusted at the nomination of undesirable candidates, they just could not able to convey their message of non-cooperation. On the other hand giving people this choice of negative voting would give them a reason to go to the polls even though they don’t like any of the candidates. It assures one, secrecy and encourages him to exercise his right, which will send a knockout message to the conceited politicians. This will also enhance the participation of urban, educated and rich people.

Much recently elections took place in State of Tamil Nadu and State of West Bengal which saw skyrocketing increase in the voter-turnout percentage.

Though this increase in the turnout definitely is a good sign and points out towards the increase in confidence of the general public in governments but these do the dilute in any way the case for practically introducing this negative voting provision as firstly these are state –assembly elections and secondly prime aim of this provision is to give the voters the whip power / veto power which they can utilize at the anytime government becomes arbitrary and undemocratic in future.

· Rolling out role played by so called caste factor
The Law Commission’s report stated that one of the objectives of this negative voting would be “to cut down or, at any rate, to curtail the significance and role played by caste factor in the electoral process…There is hardly any constituency in the country where anyone particular caste can command more than 50% of the votes. This means that a candidate has to carry with his several castes and communities to succeed.

This would certainly work to reduce the caste-based fragmentation of the polity and help develop holistic and pluralistic perspectives. Now the parties will try to fight on ideologies and programmes rather than on caste or religious vote banks. It is the best measures to make our electoral system more representative, fair and transparent, to strengthen our democracy, to arrest and reverse the process of proliferation and splintering of political parties and to introduce stability in our governance.

· To put moral pressure on political parties not to put forward candidates with undesirable record
Nearly 2000 years ago a High –level Roman politician had reportedly observed that “the evil that men do that lives after them; but the good is often interred with their bones” .Whatever the veracity of Shakespeare’s dialogue the fictionalized Antony espoused a familiar bit of political folk wisdom, namely the belief that citizens evaluate their leaders asymmetrically with negatives counting more heavily than positives.

Primarily the major objective of introducing this negative system of voting is to put moral pressure on political parties not to put forward candidates with undesirable record i.e., criminals, corrupt elements and persons with unsavory background. History of general elections bears testimony to the fact that political parties have always put forward candidates with some having serious charges against them which has in past generated even serious controversies. Also the issue that there is no minimum qualification for candidates to stand in elections needs to be pondered upon. If statistics of ADR (Association for Democratic Reforms) are to be believed in 2009 general elections overall, there were 8,070 candidates contesting elections across India. The Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) analysed affidavits of 7,405 candidates and found that 1,114 had criminal charges.

According to National Election Watch, the 15th Lok Sabha saw many MPs with pending criminal charges. At least 150 MPs have criminal cases against them, with 73 serious cases ranging from rape to murder. While BJP has 42 MPs with criminal charges, Congress has 41. From UP, out of 80 seats, 31 have criminal cases. Thus the provision will forward good candidates and eschew bad characters and corrupt elements.

· Checking voter –intimidation
Even negative voting also will act as a powerful disincentive against voter intimidation. As Law Commission in its 170th report had put it that “There can be no dispute that the idea and its underlying object are both laudable. Besides, the advantages pointed out above, this method of election also acts as a powerful disincentive against voter intimidation. It would provide an opportunity to the voters to express their disapproval of the bad candidates and the political parties who put them forward…..”

· Retaining the essential democratic structure of free and fair elections
Lastly but most significantly the negative voting according to many experts will help in sustaining the overall structure of democracy and further nurturing the spirit of democratic principles which our country has been losing by leaps and bounds day by day. The pertinent question which arises here is should people waste their vote for lack of good choice by voting compulsorily for a candidate, as there exists’ no option?

Bhagwati, J., had opined “Democracy is based essentially on free debate and open discussion, for that is the only corrective of Government action in a democratic setup. If democracy means government of the people by the people, it is obvious that every citizen must be entitled to participate in the democratic process and in order to enable him to intelligently exercise his right of making a choice”. In every democracy, the process of election should be free, fair and equitable. Our Constitution and the Representation of the People Act, seek to provide for a free and fair election. Moreover negative voting is a step towards fair election.

The Flip Side Of The Coin: Arguments Against Negative /Neutral Voting
Now it is not that there are no loopholes in this system of negative voting. In fact Dinesh Goswami Committee did not favour it and was of the view that it does not serve any purpose. Like everything on this earth negative voting too has some loopholes which if plugged would make this system of voting really a practically implementable .The Law Commission in its 170th report had clearly pointed out these difficulties as under:

· Practical difficulties in carrying out run-off elections
Now as we know that election to Lok Sabha or for Legislative Assemblies in bigger States, are not held on one single date. Elaborate arrangements have to be made to establish polling booths, to requisition, allocate and transport the personnel to man the polling booths, and the transport and stationing of police and other paramilitary forces for maintaining peace at the time of polling and so on. Because of these fact and considerations, elections to Lok Sabha are held or more dates. Elections to Legislative Assemblies States are also spread over two dates. Secondly, counting does not take place soon after the polling. Counting begins only after the polling throughout the country (in the case of Lok Sabha) and throughout the State (in the case of a Legislative Assembly) is completed. This picture points out that if a run-off election is to be held, fresh ballot paper is to be printed in respect of those constituencies (where the run-off has become necessary) and polling has to be held afresh which means either retaining or rearranging the entire paraphernalia mentioned above including stationing of Police and other forces to maintain law and order.

Evm’s Would Help In Implementation
The above mentioned is indeed a practical difficulty which was pointed out by Law Commission of India but simultaneously it also mentioned that if electronic voting machines are introduced throughout the country, it will become a little more easier to hold a run-off election in as much as it would then be not necessary to print from ballot papers showing the names of the two candidates competing in the run-off - or for that matter, for holding a fresh election (in case the idea of negative vote is also given effect to). Considering the present scenario with EVM’s functioning well all over the country, I think democracy today which is really on crossroads today needs this investment, if investment-costs are in form of run-off election costs.

· Whopping election costs
Another factor which raises concerns over this alternative method of election based on negative voting is the whopping election costs involved in holding elections in the country like India which is home to largest number of voters across the world. Since this method calls for run-off elections in case no candidate obtains 50% or more votes even in the run-off, following facts hold relevance. In 2009, the elections involved an electorate of 714 million larger than both EU and US elections combined and thus the largest in world till date. The elections were held in five phases which were four in 2004 elections. There were 828,804 polling stations around the country - a 20% increase over the number from the 2004 election. Rs. 1,120 Crores (€176 million) was budgeted for election expenses by the Indian Parliament. The expenditure has trebled since 1989.

Thus by going through above statistics we realize the fact that it is really cumbersome to organize elections in India and is really expensive as well but certainly this method very well is in consonance with the spirit of preamble and Constitution and will ensure that political parties put forward candidates with clean record and who really want to serve the society.

· Literacy rate and voting on caste and party lines
Another potent factor pointing towards the fact that negative voting can be misused and raises concerns over its functionality is the fact that India possesses low literacy rate and most people vote on party lines and caste lines as a substitute for the individual candidates merits. India's average literacy rate percent.

The General Public does not possess much detailed information about the candidate’s profile. Even educated people in urban areas do not have much information and then what to say about the illiterate people in rural areas. The fact that there has always been an appeal to ban Opinion and Exit Polls very well points towards this fact. Thus in such circumstances negative voting will not serve purpose if enough steps are not taken to root out voting on caste and party lines.

Moreover in our country there are eight National parties, around 50 State parties, and more than 400 registered parties. Stating that there were 1,200 political parties in the country, he said of these 150 were active political parties. “Most of the rest are fake So, the confusion among the voters is obvious. When majority of the voters are not even aware of these parties, their representatives and their objectives, it will be an erroneous idea to talk about negative voting. When a large number of voters of this country are uneducated, illiterate, and when the government is still struggling to encourage its citizens to at least vote, negative voting as a right may not help.

But there is even a strong counter –argument against this as well as the Law Commission points out that introduction of this kind of voting system would help in rooting out role played by the caste factor in voting. This would generate awareness about the value of vote and inspire the voters to make serious evaluation of candidates on the basis of their profile before voting and in case no candidate satisfies them on the basis of their rational judgment then resort to negative voting.

Violation Of Democratic Principle
Moreover according to some experts democracy involves selection from available choices. In this context, they argue that ‘vote for none of the above’ is a negation of the democratic principle.

The Issue Of Compulsory Voting
BJP’s Sudheendra Kulkarni says that it is the democratic right of a voter to choose ‘None of the above’.“But in that case, voting should be made compulsory,” he says. Thus negative voting brings into fora another potent issue to be tackled that is compulsory voting.

Views Which Came Across During Regional Consultations By The Core Committee Till Month Of May 2011
During various consultations almost analogous views came across on this contentious issue of negative voting. Although I think negative voting has not been dealt in much detail as the other issues in these consultations.

The brawny influence of criminals in the Indian legislature was very well recognized which very well became apparent from the fact that criminalisation of politics was main agenda to be dealt in all consultations with special focus on how to deal more effectively with mitigating criminals from politics, making more stringent rules for disclosing the criminal antecedents of candidates and whether candidates who have criminal cases pending against them should be permitted to fight elections or not ?

Common views have been expressed almost at all the consultations on contentious issue of negative voting which are as follows:
Several members of the public stated that there should be a provision allowing for the negative voting by which voters are able to reject all the candidates if none are found satisfactory. Some speakers dissented to this view suggesting that negative voting is not currently desirable or easily implementable. During regional consultation at Bhopal and Kolkata suggestion came that the mechanism should be set up by which voters may be able to recall the legislators which are not seen to be performing their work satisfactorily.

During consultation at Kolkata Shri Vikram Keshari Arukh, who was representing the State of Orissa, has stated that negative voting is not acceptable to them.

During consultation at Mumbai, Mr. Davindra Phadnis (BJP) has stated that voters list is the basic tool for better conduct of elections. There are faulty voters list and no comprehensive revision of voters list have been undertaken so far. In any given constituency, about 20% voters are non-existent. Persons securing 50% votes of the total turn out get elected, which means they are elected by minority. He suggested that a time limit be fixed and Election Commission should go in for comprehensive revision of voters list. In our country voting shall be made compulsory as in Australia. On the use of EVMs, he suggested that the casting of votes through EVMs should be with a paper back up .Thus if this picture is to be believed it points to the dismal picture of largest celebration of Democracy in our country which has direct relation with negative voting.

During almost all consultations several major structural changes in the electoral process were suggested by speakers which have direct relation with negative voting. These include the following:
1. Voting should be made compulsory
2. Candidates should have to secure more than 50% of votes to win any election.

Thus ultimately what remains to be seen is the fact that how during further consultations opinions take shape on this negative voting and other electoral reforms issues which are interlinked with it and whether finally the “negative voting” will actually someday become a practically implementable.

Thus concluding in the end, it is crystal clear that there are ‘critical dissenting’ views against negative voting.So indeed final decision over its practical implementation will entail much deliberate thinking by the legislators and government on arguments for and against this critical concept and then making a rational judgment based on the true and fair evaluation of Indian political, social scenario and voter – behavior since the foundation of democracy and up till today. A legitimate exercise of the comparison of advantages and practical complexities based on good faith is definitely commanded. As the Indian democracy is getting mature and subtle, it is in the interests of government itself as it will help in maintaining the trust of people in government if this provision becomes a reality. Implementing this provision will always be a warning and create fear in the minds of government towards losing their vote banks. It will make the political parties realize the fact that voter is not helpless and dumb spectator only. Howsoever the government may try to improve the abuse of power will always continue as the famous and time –tested saying goes:

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely

As freedom of choosing from the list of the available candidates has been to the voters in the same fashion voting against all is also a facet of free choice and therefore Rule 49-0 exists. Every effort must be made by the Government to practically implement it in accordance with the present political and social scenario. Another point strongly backing this kind of voting is that Law Commission of India and Election Commission of India fully support this provision. As arbitrary exercise of power by the government will rise further slowly and steadily muscular public opinion will mould in favour of this so called savior of democracy provision which one day will surely be a part of functional provisions. Moreover as the history is testimony to the fact that legal provisions which check the power of the government always have involved heated debates and tussles and needed active and vibrant participation of the all the sections of the society unanimously, this provision as well most imperatively requires the same. Let us all join our hands together to convert the elections which are the largest festivals of our democracy from fake and frivolous day to a real and joyful day with the help of this provision……
# Office Order dated 15 December, 2010 of the Ministry of Law and Justice, w. r .t. Constitution of Core Committee on Electoral Reforms.
# Supra at 6
# Office Order dated 23 December, 2010 of Ministry of Law and Justice w .r. t. Regional Consultation on Electoral Reforms.
# Gyanant Singh, Centre cold to EC's idea of negative vote, India Today, New Delhi, January 29, 2009.
“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.” Form 17A is the register of the polling booth which is signed by all the electors.”
# Infra at 17
# Available at http://www.india.gov.in/allimpfrms/alldocs/11946.pdf(last accessed on 06-09-2011 )
# Say no to Pols, The Telegraph, Feb. 25, 2009.
# Plea to make provision for ‘negative vote’ in EVMs, Business Line, June 3, 2011, Mumbai, PIL Urges HC to Provide for 'Negative Vote' in Polls, Outlook Magazine, June 3, 2011, New Delhi
# Law Commission Of India, One Hundred Seventieth Report On Reform Of The Electoral Laws, May 1999.
# The Negative Voting Option, Livemint, March 10, 2009.
# Ibid
# Larger Bench to decide on right to negative voting, The Hindu , Feb 24, 2009
# Ibid
# AIR 2006 SC 3127, Writ Petition (C) Nos. 217, 262, 266 and 305 of 2004, Decided On: 22.08.2006
# AIR 1982 SC 983
# 2002(005) SCC 0361SC , WRIT PETITION (C) NO. 294 OF 2001
# [18] Available at http://ibnlive.in.com/news/negative-voting-indians-are-positive-about-it/87461-37.html( last accessed on 12-09-2011)
# Smriti Advani , Negative voting: Indians positive about it, CNN-IBN, Mar 12, 2009 Also available at http://ibnlive.in.com/news/negative-voting-indians-are-positive-about-it/87461-37.html(last accessed on 15-09-2011)
# Available at http://eci.nic.in/eci_main/miscellaneous_statistics/votingprecentage_loksabha.asp( last accessed on 14-09-2011 )
# Joydeep Thakur and Sukumar Debnath, Turnout makes Elections 2011 historic, Hindustan Times, May 11, 2011, Kolkata.
# Morris P. Fiorina and Kenneth A. Shepsle, Is Negative Voting an artifact?, American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 33, No. 2, May 1989.
# Ashish Tripathi , Highest number of criminals, crorepatis in fray in UP , Times of India , May 13, 2009.
# MPs with criminal charges aplenty in new House, The Hindu, May 18, 2009.
# Available at http://lawmin.nic.in/ncrwc/finalreport/v1ch4.htm( last accessed on 10-09-2011 )
# Supra at 6, p.16
# http://eci.nic.in/eci_main/archiveofge2009/Stats/VOLI/04_PollingStationInformation.pdf( last accessed on 0 8-09-2011)
# http://mospi.nic.in/Mospi_New/upload/statistical_year_book_2011/SECTOR-6MISCELLANEOUS SECTOR/CH-43-ELECTORAL STATISTICS/ELECTROAL STATISTICS-WRITEUP.pdf( last accessed on 12-09-2011 )
# India’s literacy rate rises to 74%: Census, Livemint,March 31, 2011.
# EC bans opinion and Exit polls in assembly elections, The Hindu, October 10, 2009.
# Election Commission for ban on opinion polls, The Financial Express, Jan 10, 2011, Also available at http://eci.nic.in/eci_main/archiveofge2009/Stats/VOLI/02_ListOfPoliticalPartiesParticipated.pdf( last visited on 10-09-2011)
# Nandita Sengupta ,Demand for negative voting echoes on web, The Economic Times , March 9, 2009.
# Gist of Regional Consultations on Electoral Reforms held at Bhopal, Kolkata, Mumbai and Lucknow, p.3 Also available at http://lawmin.nic.in/legislative/ereforms/ereforms.htm( last accessed on 1-09-2011)
# Gist of regional consultations at Bhopal, Kolkata, Mumbai and Lucknow, p.4 , Also available at http://lawmin.nic.in/legislative/ereforms/ereforms.htm( last accessed on 1-09-2011)
# Ibid
# Summary of Discussions on the Regional Consultations held at Bhopal, Kolkata, Mumbai and Lucknow by PRS Legislative Research., Also available at http://lawmin.nic.in/legislative/ereforms/ereforms.htm ( last accessed on 4-09-2011)

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