It’s Official: JK To Have NOTA Option

It’s Official: JK To Have NOTA Option

16 January 2014
Greater Kashmir
Yogesh Sagotra

Jammu: Despite opposition from some political parties in Jammu and Kashmir including Congress, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has decided to go ahead with introduction of the ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) voting option in the State during the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. “There is no question of considering the opposition as introducing NOTA option in Lok Sabha elections is mandatory as per the Supreme Court ruling on the issue,” Deputy Election Commissioner, Vinod Zutshi, said here Thursday. Zutshi, who is also in-charge of the ECI for Jammu and Kashmir, is on his two-day tour to the State to discuss the poll arrangements for upcoming Lok Sabha elections. He held a detailed meeting here with representatives of various political parties and chaired a high-level meeting with officials of the State’s Election department to review the poll preparedness. In an informal interaction with Greater Kashmir, Zutshi said as per the Supreme Court judgment, it is mandatory for the Election department to provide ‘None Of The Above’ (NOTA) option in all upcoming elections. “This option was successfully used during assembly elections in five states held last year, and the Commission has already added this particular button in all Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) to be used in 2014 Lok Sabha elections,” he said. Laying speculations to rest, he said the option will be available to voters of Jammu and Kashmir like voters all other states in India. However, Zutshi avoided a query when specifically asked about the same option being introduced for the assembly polls in the State. “We are presently focusing on the LS polls and the decision on implementation of NOTA for state assembly election will be taken only when its time comes,” he said. A number of political leaders, including those from Congress and National Conference, had expressed reservations over the use of NOTA in Jammu and Kashmir, arguing that it may “strengthen separatists involved in the anti-poll campaigns.” When contacted, senior Congress leader and Minister for Medical Education Taj Mohi-ud-Din, who had vociferously opposed the idea, said: “I am firm on my stand that introduction of such an option will not be in the interest of the State.” He had written to the Prime Minister, Union Home Minister and the Congress High Command, requesting them to exclude Jammu and Kashmir from NOTA option, fearing that it would be used by “separatists as weapon for their anti-election campaign.” “Ball is now in the court of Government of India which has to take the final call,” Taj said. In a step towards electoral reforms, the Apex Court had directed the Election Commission of India to have the option of ‘None Of The Above’ (NOTA) on the electronic voting machines (EVMs) and ballot papers, which can be used by voters to reject candidates contesting the polls. The court had said that negative voting would encourage even people who are not satisfied with any of the candidates to turn up to express their opinion and reject all contestants. “Negative voting will lead to a systemic change in polls and political parties will be forced to project clean candidates. If the right to vote is a statutory right, then the right to reject candidate is a fundamental right of speech and expression under the Constitution,” said the Bench headed by the Chief Justice of India, P Sathasivam. According to the EC, the NOTA option will be placed at the end of EVMs and ballot papers following the name and symbol of the last candidate. “These words shall be written in the same language or languages as used in the case of names of candidates. The size of the panel for ‘None of the Above’ shall be the same as for the candidates,” EC officials said.