SC notice to Centre, EC on plea to nullify election result if maximum votes for NOTA

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New Delhi, Mar 15 (PTI) The Supreme Court Monday asked the Centre and the Election Commission to respond to a plea seeking that an election result be nullified and fresh poll conducted if maximum votes in a constituency favour the NOTA (none of the above) option.

A bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian issued notices to Union Ministry of Law and Justice and the poll panel on the plea which also seeks a direction that rejected candidates be barred from taking part in fresh poll in the constituency.

Initially, the top court expressed reluctance to the plea of advocate and BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay saying if NOTA is polled the most and as a result, no candidate is declared elected then how a valid Parliament will be constituted.

'If some political party with influence on people manages to get candidates rejected then seats will remain unfilled in Parliament. It is a Constitutional problem. If your argument is accepted, and all candidates are rejected and that constituency goes unrepresented completely, then how will you constitute a valid Parliament,” the bench asked during the hearing conducted through video conferencing. Senior advocate Menaka Guruswamy, appearing for Upadhyay, said the very fact that an elector will have the right to reject will lead a situation where political parties will have to field candidates acceptable to voters.

She said the NOTA option has no real value at present as to get an election annulled, votes cast in favour of NOTA has to be more than 50 per cent of total valid votes and as a consequence, candidate, getting more votes from rivals, gets elected irrespective of how much votes were cast in favour of NOTA. 'Underlying suggestions are very hard to be accepted, even though we understand importance of what you are saying', the bench initially observed.

“Issue notice,” the court ordered.

The plea, filed through advocate Ashwani Kumar Dubey, has also sought a direction to the Election Commission to restrict those candidates and political parties whose election has been nullified, from taking part in the fresh polls.

'The right to reject and elect a new candidate will give power to the people to express their discontent. If voters are dissatisfied with the background or performance of contesting candidate, they will opt for NOTA (none of the above) to reject such candidate and elect a new candidate,' the petition said.

'The Court may declare that if 'none of the above' (NOTA) gets maximum votes, then election to that constituency shall be nullified and a fresh election shall be held within six months; and the contesting candidates rejected in the nullified elections, shall not be allowed to participate in the fresh election,' the plea said.

The petition contended that political parties choose contesting candidates in a very undemocratic manner without consulting electors, that is why, many times people in the constituency are totally discontented with candidates presented before them.

'This problem can be solved by holding a fresh election if maximum votes are polled in favour of NOTA. In such situation, the contesting candidates should be considered as rejected and not be allowed in the fresh election,' the plea said.

'Right to reject and elect new candidate will give power to the people to express their discontent. If voters are dissatisfied with the background of contesting candidate, they will opt NOTA to reject such candidate and elect a new candidate,' it said.

The plea said the percentage of candidates with criminal antecedents and their chances of winning has actually increased steadily over the years.

'The injury caused to public is extremely large and continue till date, as the right to reject is an integral part of Article 19, but the Centre and ECI did nothing to declare the election result invalid and hold fresh election if maximum votes are polled in favour of NOTA,' it added. PTI SJK PKS SA