The historic decision of the Supreme Court of India directing the Election Commission of India to provide an opportunity to the voters to choose ‘none’ in the election contest and to ensure None of the Above Option (NOTA) button so that the voters can not only exercise their right to vote but also express their freedom of expression which is a fundamental right available to every citizen under constitution. As tainted and people with blemished past record are joining the election fray therefore it is imperative that voters express their opinion that whether they like the candidates in the contest or it is only their obligation to choose anyone.
Anyhow, after the Supreme Court’s verdict on introduction of NOTA option, the Election Commission of India has issued instructions for Chief Electoral Officers of states and Union Territories to introduce the same during polls to enable voters to exercise their right to not vote for any candidate while maintaining secrecy. As of now the facility is being provided to the voters even in the ongoing assembly elections in the 5 states.
Though, in Jammu and Kashmir, NOTA option is not applicable without the consent of the state government because the state having its own law ‘Jammu and Kashmir Representation of People’s Act’ and the NOTA option may be available in the Lok Sabha elections but for the assembly elections there must be an amendment to the state act or the state government can incorporate the provisions by bringing an ordinance but there are voices are being raised by some leaders of the mainstream political parties to deprive the people and voters of Jammu and Kashmir from this option of choosing ‘None’ in the election contest.
A senior Congress minister from the state has written to the Prime Minister and Congress Chairperson demanding that the union government should move to the Supreme Court to prevent the implementation of NOTA in disturbed areas like Jammu and Kashmir and North-East. The argument given for raising a ban on NOTA option is that the option would only strengthen the hands of the separatists and separatists will establish themselves by this process as they can use it in anti-election campaign.
Though the congress minister has his own right to express his views, but the argument given by him is not satisfactory as it seems an attempt to deprive the people of Jammu and Kashmir their fundamental right i.e right to freedom of expression and speech, there should not be any discrimination with the innocent people of Jammu and Kashmir and they too be given the same right as being given to people of other part of the country. If for the sake of argument, let us assume and presume that the separatists would establish themselves with the NOTA option even then it would only strengthen the democracy. To exercise the None of the Above Option, one has to involved him/herself in election process and only a registered voter shall have the right to choose or not to choose any candidate in an election contest. This would mean that ultimately, the democracy would be strengthen even if maximum number of voters negate the people in election fray. In the present era it would not be only politically incorrect and illegal but must say criminal act, if the population of Jammu and Kashmir is not allowed to ventilate their emotions (choosing NOTA) through ballot.
The apprehensions or must say fear raised by the political parties that separatists will establish themselves with this option is not the problem of the voters but this must be considered as a failure of the so called mainstream political parties that despite being in power they have failed to build confidence amongst the voters. These leaders of the political parties are not worried about the strengthening democracy but their only concern is that with this option they would be exposed themselves.
If by instigating voters not to elect anyone in the elections, the separatists can prove themselves then who has asked and stopped the mainstream political parties to launch mass awareness campaigns to educate the voters about the good work if any done by their leaders and seek vote for them.
The NOTA option should not only be confined to Lok Sabha and Legislative assembly elections, in fact it should also be applied to all elections in the country like that of election for president, Vice President, Rajya Sabha member election, legislative council election, municipal elections and Panchyat elections.