'Whatever the Supreme Court expected, it wasn't achieved in these five years.
'So, we have made an amendment now to achieve that objective.'
Five years after the Supreme Court ordered the Election Commission to introduce a 'None Of The Above' or NOTA button on all electronic voting machines, the Maharashtra state Election Commission last week announced that if NOTA gets the maximum votes in an election, none of the contesting candidates would be declared elected and re-elections will be held.
The state EC stated that the order will be applicable to polls and by-polls to all municipal corporations, municipal councils and nagar panchayats with immediate effect.
If NOTA gets the highest number of votes in the re-election as well, the candidate with the most number of votes, excluding NOTA, will be declared the winner.
The rule will come into effect for the first time in the Ahmednagar and Dhule municipal corporation polls to be held on December 9.
"To make democracy better we have to take certain steps," Maharashtra Election Commissioner J S Saharia tells Rediff.com's Hemant Waje.
The Supreme Court issued its order on NOTA in 2013. However, a clause mentioned that while announcing the result, the NOTA option should not determine the winner even if it had polled the most votes. What made you amend this?
In 2013, the Supreme Court gave an order to introduce NOTA in elections with three expectations,
One, the voting percentage will increase.
Second, political parties will field good candidates.
Third, whatever the majority will vote, that will be selected.
With these three observations, the Supreme Court gave its order.
Till now there is no mention of NOTA anywhere in the local Act.
The Supreme Court gave this order, but said that the votes to NOTA won't be counted.
Whatever the Supreme Court expected, it wasn't achieved in these five years.
So, we have made an amendment now to achieve that objective.
Has there been any study or data to suggest that there hasn't been any change?
See. It is in the public domain. There hasn't been any drastic increase in voting percentage (since the introduction of NOTA).
The voting percentage has been stagnant.
As you can see, political parties are still fielding candidates who have criminal backgrounds, good financial backing, and they are still winning.
So overall, there is no change after the Supreme Court introduced NOTA.
Has it happened earlier where NOTA secured more votes than the actual winner?
I can't recall any specific instances, but yes, it has happened before where NOTA got more votes, but still the candidate with less votes has been declared the winner.
It has happened in Maharashtra too.
When will the Election Commission of India implement this rule for the assembly and general elections?
The Election Commission of India and other state election commissions are independent bodies. It is up to the ECI and other state commissions to take that call.
Will your new order force political parties to field good candidates?
We hope so.
The Supreme Court gave the order in 2013 with the expectation that parties will field good candidates.
How will you create awareness among voters about your new order?
Before the Dhule, Ahmednagar municipal elections, we will publish advertisements in the press and also inform voters about the new order.
How do you think the voters will react to it?
I hope more people will come and exercise their voting right.
But if there are re-elections, wouldn't it put more burden on the already expensive, time consuming, tiring election process?
No, it's not like that.
To make democracy better, we have to take certain steps.
There will be no burden on us. The state election commission is fully prepared (in case there is a re-election).