Nota not for RS: Court

The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that the none-of-the-above (Nota) option available in Lok Sabha and Assembly polls couldn't be permitted for the Rajya Sabha, as the "elixir" for direct elections could serve the "Satan of defection" in the other.

By R. Balaji
  • Published 22.08.18
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The Supreme Court. Picture by Prem Singh

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that the none-of-the-above (Nota) option available in Lok Sabha and Assembly polls couldn't be permitted for the Rajya Sabha, as the "elixir" for direct elections could serve the "Satan of defection" in the other.

The court also said that elections to the council of states couldn't be compared with a general election, as members of Parliament's upper House represented a state, not any particular constituency.

"Nota will destroy the concept of value of a vote and representation and encourage defection that shall open the doors for corruption which is a malignant disorder," a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud said.

"It has to be remembered that democracy garners its strength from the citizenry trust which is sustained only on the foundational pillars of purity, integrity, probity and rectitude...and such stronghold can be maintained only by ensuring that the process of elections remains unsullied and unpolluted so that the citadel of democracy stands tall as an impregnable bulwark against unscrupulous forces," the bench added.

"Nota may serve as an elixir in direct elections but in respect of the election to the council of states, which is a different one as discussed above, ... it would not only undermine the purity of democracy but also serve the Satan of defection and corruption."

The ruling came on an appeal filed by Shailesh Manubhai Parmar, the Congress's chief whip in the Gujarat Assembly.

Parmar had challenged an August 2017 circular that the secretary, Gujarat Legislature Secretariat, had issued, applying the Nota option for the then upcoming Rajya Sabha elections, which Congress leader Ahmed Patel won in a pulsating contest.

The Congress had alleged that the Election Commission (EC) had introduced the Nota option for the Rajya Sabha polls to help the BJP.

The central government and the EC had both defended the introduction of Nota since 2014. The Centre, in its oral submission, cited the Supreme Court judgment in the 2013 PUCL case that the option should be introduced for all Lok Sabha and Assembly elections.

The bench rejected the argument, saying the decision in the PUCL case related to direct elections.

"When one analyses the exercise of choice of Nota in the voting process of the council of states, where open ballot is permissible and secrecy of voting has no room and further where the discipline of the political party/parties matters, it is clear that such choice will have a negative impact. An elector, though a single voter, has a quantified value of his vote and the surplus votes are transferable...," the bench said.

"The concept of vote being transferable has a different connotation. It further needs to be stated that a candidate after being elected becomes a representative of a state and does not represent a particular constituency. The cumulative effect of all these aspects clearly conveys that the introduction of Nota to the election process for electing members of the council of states will be an anathema to the fundamental criterion of democracy, which is a basic feature of the Constitution."

The court said if Nota were introduced for Rajya Sabha elections, the very objective of the anti-defection law would be defeated.

"It can be stated without any fear of contradiction that the... introduction of Nota in such an election will not only run counter to the discipline that is expected from an elector under the Tenth Schedule to the Constitution but also be counterproductive to the basic grammar of the law of disqualification of a member on the ground of defection," Justice Misra, who wrote the judgment, said.

The bench said the intention behind the anti-defection law was to curb "horse trading, corruption and use of extra-constitutional methods", as envisaged under the Tenth Schedule.

"The commission cannot be allowed to conceive of certain concepts or ideas or, for that matter, think of a different dimension which would not fit into the legal framework," the court said.