Source: 
First Post Politics
http://www.firstpost.com/politics/right-to-reject-is-welcome-more-reforms-needed-civil-society-1137321.html
Date: 
27.09.2013
City: 
New Delhi

Members of civil society who have been campaigning for electoral reforms have welcomed the Supreme Court judgment granting the right to reject to voters. “This is a wonderful judgment. This will certainly force the political parties to field clean candidates in election,” said J M Lyngdoh, former chief election commissioner and founder member of the Foundation of Advanced Management of Elections, an NGO which helps monitor election process. In a landmark judgment, the apex court, on Friday, directed the election commission of India to give the electorate “none of the above” (NOTA) provision, as in to reject all candidates in a constituency. As per the court order, the commission should start the exercise with the assembly elections scheduled this year. Effectively, it means the voters in Delhi, Chhatisgarh, Rajasthan and Mizoram will be the first ones to exercise the right to reject during assembly elections in November. This is the first step, say civil society members Aam Aam Party chief Arvind Kejriwal, who has been vocal in demanding right to reject, supported the court verdict. “This is the first concrete step towards the right to reject,” he tweeted. The court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by the civil rights group People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), which demanded that a button should be added to the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) giving the voters a NOTA choice. The second demand of the petitioner was that if more than 50 per cent reject all candidates, there should be a re-election in that constituency. The court order is confined only to the first demand made in the litigation, Sanjay Parikh, PUCL counsel told Firstpost. “For the provision of re- election, the Parliament will to have to pass a law. As of now, we believe that right to reject option in itself is very important and will deter political parties from fielding tainted candidates,” he said. As per an analysis done by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), an organisation working for transparency and accountability in electoral process, 30 per cent of sitting Lok Sabha MPs and 31 per cent of sitting MLAs have criminal cases registered against them. During the hearing, the court said that this option was crucial as for a democracy to survive and for the best available men to be chosen for governing the country, ruled the court, adding, “Democracy was all about choice, and in a vibrant democracy, the voter must be given the choice of NOTA. The union government opposed the proposal arguing that an election is meant to elect and not to reject. Including a rejection button will confuse voters and will not serve any purpose, according to the government. Jagdeep Chhokar, founder member of ADR, said that while the judgment in itself is good, the new election mandate is needed to take full advantage of it. “We have to go beyond adding a NOTA button on the EVM machine. In case 50 per cent or more voters choose NOTA option, election should be held again with parties fielding fresh candidates,” he said. This is the latest in a series of orders passed by the apex court to reform the electoral process in the country. In July, the court ruled that lawmakers convicted of any crime will be disqualified. It struck down a provision in the electoral law, which provides protection to convicted lawmakers from disqualification if they appeal in a higher court within three months. The union government has moved an ordinance against the court ruling.

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