New Delhi, Sept. 13: The Election Commission of India today defended in the Supreme Court its decision to use the Nota (None of the Above) option for the Rajya Sabha polls in Gujarat, saying the option was not new but had been exercised during several elections since 2014.
In an affidavit filed through counsel Amit Sharma, the Election Commission told the court it had used Nota in several elections since 2014 following a Supreme Court directive in 2013 to introduce an option where the voter can say "no" to all the candidates.
The poll panel's affidavit was in response to the apex court's directive last month on a petition filed by Gujarat Congress Legislature Party chief whip Shailesh Manubhai Parmar challenging the Nota option for the August 8 polls in the state. In its affidavit, the commission said it had used the Nota option in biennial elections to the Rajya Sabha since 2014, covering all states, and in 25 by-elections.
"It is pertinent to point out herein, that the Nota option was a part of every Rajya Sabha election held since 2014. Every voter has the right to vote or the right not to vote. In direct elections, if any person does not want to vote, secrecy has to be maintained that he does not wish to vote," it said.
"In Rajya Sabha elections though, there is no need for secrecy because the law makes it open voting but that does not take away the right of an elector not to vote, if so wished by him, and therefore, there has to be provision for Nota even in election to the council of states," the commission added.
According to the poll panel, the 2013 directive of the apex court on the use of Nota did not, in any manner, restrict the option to Lok Sabha polls.
"It does not indicate that this hon'ble court ever intended that the option of Nota ought not to be provided whilst conducting elections to the council of states. Furthermore, it has not been indicated by the petitioner as to how the inclusion of the option of Nota for elections to the council of states would detrimentally prejudice any elector or a political party," the poll panel said.
The matter is expected to come up for hearing next week.