Right Not to Vote in India

WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens: JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;
and to promote among them all
FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation; IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this twenty-sixth day of November, 1949, do HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION.

This is how our constitution begins, with the preamble. It is evident that the constitution was adopted by the citizens of the country and the word ‘Democracy’ used in the preamble means a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Keeping that in mind and the cultural diversity of our nation, parliamentary form of government was adopted, where each citizen of over 18 years has a right to choose a representative by the system of Universal Adult Franchise (U.A.F.). As above mentioned, it’s the people(citizens) of the country  who select a person of their choice, whom they think will represent his/her views and is capable enough to raise the voice of masses and for the overall development. But there may arise or must have been have been arising a situation where in the eye’s of people (citizens) no contesting candidate is capable of representing them, then in this circumstances what will the people do? What right do they have under this situation? People(citizens) have an unfettered right to choose their candidate without any influence and this in fact is an very important attribute of the Indian parliamentary democracy, but in this case right’s of the people(citizens) is being restricted and clearly infringes a person’s right by limiting the choice and is certainly against the system of democracy.

A Lethal weapon in the hands of the people(citizens) and the only answer to the above mentioned situation  which has never brought in the limelight by the corrupt politicians is the Rule 49-o of the Conduct of Elections Rule,1961. This rule help  people (citizens) to use their right of voting by not voting in favour of any of the candidates contesting the elections, it may confuse the reader at first instance but it’s elaboration in the subsequent paragraphs will make this rule (rule 49-o of conduct of election rule 1961) a practical one and in  easy words it is termed as “Right Not to Vote”. Under this rule if an elector, after getting his electoral roll number entered in the register of the voters in form 17-A and has put his/her signatures or thumb impression there as is required under sub rule (1) of rule 49(L) of the conduct of elections rule, decides not to record his vote, remark to that effect shall be made against the said entry of form 17-A (of conduct of elections rule,1961 ) by the presiding officer and signature of the elector shall be obtained against such remark. This rule in itself says a lot and makes the system of Universal Adult Franchise (U.A.F.) more precious in our country, but still a lot more has to be done to make it more effective and voter friendly as of now there has not been sanction/force behind so that it is made binding  and the government is yet to take an action towards it, however proposals have been made to the government by the Election Commission of India (E.C.I.)  a couple of times. So the election commission can’t be blamed for this issue as after receiving recommendations of large number of people’s and Non Governmental Organizations  in 2001 commission made proposals to the  government  to make this rule(49-o) more effective by having a sanction behind it or something of that sort which will make the political parties extra cautious while choosing a person who ought to be given ticket  to contest the elections, this proposals was made by letter dated vide 10/12/2001 but nothing was done. Again the Election Commission  took an initiative for better conducting of elections and electoral reforms proposals were made in the year 2004 to the then Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh (of U.P.A.-1). These included that the rule 22 and 49-B of conduct of elections rule(C.E.R.),1961 must be edited/amended , so as to make people aware about this right . Rule 22 of the C.E.R.1961 deals with the format of the ballot paper i.e. in what language it ought to be?,  how the names of the candidates are to be arranged? And if names of two candidates are the same how the two are to be distinguished? Etc. However it was proposed that that it should include an option most preferably in the end as ‘None of the above’. Rule 49-B of C.E.R.1961 deals with the preparation of the Electronic Voting Machines (E.V.M.) by the Returning officer and on the same lines as in rule 22 , it was proposed that E.V.M.’s should have an option in the end as   ‘None of the above’. Another proposals made by the E.C.I. that secrecy of the voter exercising the neutral/negative vote (under rule 49-o) ought to be maintained, as of now if any person wants to exercise this right (under rule 49-o) , a remark to that effect is made by the presiding officer and signature/thumb impression of the voter using this right s obtained against such remark, this clearly violates the people’s (citizens) right to secretly vote (without disclosing to others)  and polling officials  at the polling station  get to know about the decision of the voter and if it is done, as is proposed by the commission  ( by editing rule 22 and 49-B of C.E.R.1961) it will give solution to this problem as well. And  a very important proposal which will keep intact the very essence of democracy in India is that if the total number of Neutral/Negative votes (under rule 49-o) is more than the margin by which a candidate has won in that particular ward/area then polling will be canceled. It will be easier to understand with the help of an example like if an candidate assumingly wins by say 73 votes and in that particular ward/area  votes received under 49-o are more than 73 then the polling will be cancelled and repelling will take place. Also, not only that, candidature of all candidates (contestants) will be removed and they can’t contest in re-polling since the people have already expressed their opinion/decision on them. These were the proposals that have been made twice by the election commission to the government, but still no decision regarding this can be seen or heard. Government is reluctantly dealing with this issue as it may/will lead to problems in the next  general elections to them and to other political parties as well and notedly these political parties are more interested in making vote-banks rather than making the nation.

. Moreover, a petition by People’s Union for Civil Liberties seeking such provision (proposals made by E.C.I) is pending before the Honorable Supreme Court, but keeping in mind that still there are 52,592 cases pending in the Honorable Supreme Court ( as on 10 th January 2011), very less can be expected from the judiciary. Time is the very essence of the justice and if it is not administered in particular time period then it may not be of any significance, as it is rightly said ‘ Justice delayed is Justice denied’. So, it is seen that out of the three organs, two organs (namely the legislature and judiciary) are literally either not doing or are not in position of doing anything in this regard and the third organ i.e. Executive can’t do anything unless and until anything is done by the other organs. So the whole thing is left to the people (citizens) of the country, to do something for the country so that we are able to have better management of the general election in the country and also the aam aadmi should have their choice during the election. Right of a person ought to be protected and if the people don’t want or not happy with the prospect of any candidate contesting election (who will represent them in legislature), then any citizen shouldn’t be compelled to vote  or else that person will waste his/her vote. It’s the duty of the fellow citizens to help development of the country and also to make the masses aware of the Rule 49-o of Conduct of Elections Rule 1961. Government must make it applicable, this in turn will make the political parties cautious and they will think twice before giving a ticket to a candidate and more & more honest person in the eyes of people will come forward which will represent their views will come up and politic s will become an open career line for all rather than being that of inheritance. Let us all join hands for making India free from corrupt politicians and again try to make our as was known prior to coming of British Raj “Sone Ki Chidiya” ( The Golden Bird)

A  vast democracy like India can only stride,

If rules like 49-o(for citizens)are kept beside .

Satyameva Jayate                                            Jai Hind

Article by-

Sikander Tuteja,

Punjab University.

[Submitted as an entry for the MightyLaws.in Blog Post Writing Competition, 2011]