Recently, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, in the case of People’s Union for Civil Liberties and Another v. Union of India, directed the Election Commission of India to include the “None Of The Above” (“NOTA”) button on electronic voting machines (“EVMs”).
Following the decisions of the Supreme Court of India in Union of India v. Association for Democratic Reforms (2002), People’s Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India (2003), and Kuldip Nayar v. Union of India (2006), confusion prevailed about whether the right to vote was a statutory right, a constitutional right, or a fundamental right. Harmoniously constructing these decisions, the Court held that while the right to vote was a statutory one, the voter’s decision — once granted the right or freedom of voting — is a fundamental right under Article 19(1)(a). The petition under Article 32 was therefore maintainable.
The Court then ruled that the present system of voter abstention was unconstitutional and ultra vires Article 19(1)(a) and Section 79 of the Representation of People’s Act, 1951 as secrecy must be extended to the right not to vote as well. The Court then accepted the Election Commission’s suggestion that a NOTA button be included in all EVMS.
The Court also listed some countries that offer the NOTA option in elections. The table below captures some of the details after correcting some of the Court’s factual errors.
(Vasujith Ram is a student of The WB National University of Juridical Sciences. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)