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Here’s Why The “Right To Reject” Is Necessary In A Country Like India

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By Neha Mayuri:

With the 2014 general elections inching closer, there is hope, faith, anticipation, disgust, fear and chaos — nationwide. The elections will be held in 2014 for the 16th Lok Sabha and the current i.e 15th Lok Sabha will complete its constitutional term on May 31st, 2014. Unfortunately, there is a feeling of indifference among a majority of people when it comes to politics- some are averse to it while others are apathetic. But abstaining from voting or commenting on politics is not a respite to the vicious cycle of corruption and power manipulation. By refusing to vote, one is in a Catch 22 situation. If one is above 18 and does not vote, is it then right for him/her to comment on corruption, government and the administration of India?

INDIA-POLITICS-ELECTION-CONGRESS

Though, one must vote, one must also have a choice to reject all candidates one does not wish to vote for. Aren’t we tired of power manipulation? Don’t we feel like refraining from voting for the existing candidates? Don’t we all wait for a better leader? The “Right to Reject” is the only sensible option. It allows voters to register an official vote which means “none of the above”. None Of The Above (NOTA) aka “against all” or a “scratch all” vote is a ballot option which is designed to allow voters to indicate and express disapproval of all the candidates in a voting system. The Election Commission Of India told the Supreme Court in 2009 that it wished to propose and offer a “None Of The Above” button on voting machines, the government however opposed it. What’s worth pondering is that since India is a democracy, it is your right to state it clearly in the voting machines that “No Candidate Deserves My Vote!

However, there is a similar provision in the constitution which is Rule 49-O and is in “The Conduct Of Elections 1961” of India. According to this rule, if the voter decides not to vote, he can only do so after his electoral number has been duly entered in the register of voters in Form-17A. He needs to put his signature or thumb impression as well. The apparent purpose of this section is to prevent the misuse of votes. But, the biggest drawback of Rule 49-O is that it is a breach of privacy. Since the ballot paper and Electronic Voting Machines contain only the list of candidates and the “Right To Reject” option is not listed, a voter can under no situation record his vote under Section 49-O directly. He must inform the presiding officer at the election booth that he does not wish to vote for any candidate. This is illogical and not only violates the secrecy of ballot but also violates our right to vote confidentially.
However, with paper ballots, a different method is used which requires stamping on multiple candidates. This was the standard method of giving null votes without violating secrecy before the advent of the Electronic Voting Machines. When you vote under Section 49-O, the polling officials and agents at the polling station get to know about your decision, hence the section should be amended in order to prevent the violation of secrecy.

Our aversion to politicians makes us stay away from politics and voting which leads to the selection of wrong candidates. And then most of us do not want to go under the rigorously complicated Section “49-O”. Why are we making something as simple as voting so very complicated that a voter gets scared and becomes indifferent to the same? In the present scenario, a winner is declared irrespective of the number of “non votes”. Where then, is democracy? Why can’t we introduce something as simple as the “Right To Reject” which will not only fulfill our Fundamental Rights but also our Fundamental Duties as citizens because we will then have an incentive to vote and can reject a candidate who we think is undeserving.

India is witnessing an increasing support for the implementation of “Right To Reject”. Leaders such as Mr. Narendra Modi and Mr. Arvind Kejriwal have backed this option and then, activist Anna Hazare and the Election Commission of India have also voiced their support. As the Indian Supreme Court is looking into this issue, one will have to wait until this case is decided. But if the law were to allow the “None of the Above” option, and if the law were to allow for elections to be declared as null if the number of votes rejecting all candidates exceeded those polled by any of them, it would be a drastic step towards progressive change. It would mean that all the contesting candidates have been rejected by the voters. If this happens, the law would have to consider a re-election where all the previous candidates would not be allowed to contest again and this would be a big jolt to the corrupt candidates.

The voters in India are more empowered today than they were a couple of decades ago. The movement to effect this reform is really catching up in India. Introducing the “Right To Reject” in the Electronic Voting Machines is integral because it is our Right To Freedom Of Expression. At the present moment, we are often forced to choose between the corrupt or otherwise undesirable candidates and we end up settling for the lesser evil. But then, the same will certainly cease to happen if we get the “Right To Reject” in our Electronic Voting Machines.

You must be to comment.
  1. Taru

    You spoke my mind! I strongly believe in this concept and that all we need to change this country is more intelligent citizens. Kudos!

    1. Neha Mayuri

      Greetings and Thank You for reading it it Taru. Humbled as I’m Honoured.

  2. Natasha

    I did try this during the last elections, in Mumbai, but the staff at the polling booth seemed clueless although TOI suggested that we could cast a ‘reject vote’.

    1. Neha Mayuri

      Right Natasha, I empathise with the situation. And that is why I’m vouching for Right To Reject on Electronic Voting Machines (EVM’s)

  3. Nitin

    I do not support right to reject. When it comes to a nation passing laws, I like to know it s successful implementation elsewhere. Tell me a country which implements this law or right to recall. An average voter doesnt really knows the candidates in his constituency, except the current one and the lead opposition. Now Right to reject is definitely going to be interpreted as angst against current government, thereby voter rejecting everyone, creating unnecessary burden of re-election.
    Thing is if US, a republic democracy, where you have only two parties to choose from, doesn’t implement this, then why should the largest democracy need it.

  4. Raj

    What happens when 51% rejects everyone? Who rules then?

  5. S.S.Rawat

    भारतीय राजनीति बनाम राजनैतिक आतन्क्वाद‌
    देश में पहली बार राजनीति को अपराधियों से मुक्त करने की दिशा में बड़ा कदम उठाते हुए सुप्रीम कोर्ट ने फैसला सुनाया था कि अब अगर सांसद या विधायक को दो साल या उससे ज्यादा की सजा होती है तो उसकी सदस्यता निलंबित हो जाएगी। सुप्रीम कोर्ट के जस्टिस एके पटनायक और एसजे मुखोपाध्याय की बेंच ने कहा कि फैसला तत्काल लागू माना जाएगा। साथ ही व्यवस्था दी कि कोई भी नेता पुलिस हिरासत या जेल में रहकर चुनाव नहीं लड़ पाएगा।

    यही नहीं, कोर्ट ने आपराधिक मामलों में दोषी ठहराए जाने के बावजूद सांसदों, विधायकों को संरक्षण देने वाले कानूनी प्रावधान धारा 8(4) को भी निरस्त कर दिया है। यानी अपील लंबित होने तक पद पर बने रहने की अनुमति देने का प्रावधान अब वजूद में नहीं रहेगा। फैसले पर पार्टियां सावधानी से जवाब दे रही हैं। कपिल सिब्‍बल हों या भाजपा के रविशंकर प्रसाद, सबने कहा कि हम पहले फैसला पढ़ लें, फिर कुछ कहेंगे।
    वहीं केंद्र सरकार सुप्रीम कोर्ट के जनप्रतिनिधित्व कानून से संबंधित फैसले से पूरी तरह इत्तफाक नहीं रखती और इसके खिलाफ पुनर्विचार याचिका दाखिल कर सकती है। सूत्रों के मुताबिक इस बारे में कानून मंत्री कपिल सिब्बल जल्द ही प्रधानमंत्री से मुलाकात कर सकते हैं और फिर सरकार अटार्नी जनरल की सलाह लेकर पुनर्विचार याचिका दायर कर सकती है। कानून के जानकारों का मानना है कि सुप्रीम कोर्ट ने ऐसे ही मामलों में संविधान पीठ द्वारा दिए गए पूर्व फैसलों का ध्यान नहीं रखा है। सरकारी सूत्रों के मुताबिक मौजूदा फैसला यह स्पष्ट नहीं करता कि ऊपरी अदालत से दोषमुक्त होने की स्थिति में क्या कोई दोबारा चुनाव लडऩे के योग्य हो सकता है।

    इस मुल्क की अस्मिता कॆ ठॆकॆदार इस फैसलॆ सॆ तिलमिला उठॆ और हॊ गयॆ लामबन्द,एक दूसरॆ कॆ कट्टर दुश्मन,सुप्रीम कॊर्ट का फैसला टालनॆ की कवायद शुरू हॊ गई | लॆकिन इन दानवॊ कॊ शायद यॆ गुमा न था कि इन अपराधियॊ कॆ राजनैतिक ड्रामॆ कॆ खात्मॆ कॆ लियॆ एक आखिरी और सबसॆ शक्तिशाली बम का निर्माण हॊ चुका |
    भारतीय राजनैतिक अपराधियॊ नॆ इस मुल्क सॆ प्रजातन्त्र का विध्वन्स कर आज यॆ खुद अपनॆ ही बुनॆ जाल मॆ फस गयॆ है, ” सुप्रीम कॊर्ट नॆ राइट टु रिजॆक्ट ” नामक बम सॆ एक जॊरदार धमाका कर इनकी नीद हराम कर ताजपॊशी की चाबी मतदाता कॆ हाथ मॆ थमा दी है,

    अब‌ सबसॆ अहम सवाल “राइट टु रिजॆक्ट” अब इस मुल्क सॆ राजनैतिक अपराधियॊ का नामॊ निशा मिटा दॆनॆ कॆ लियॆ अगर 80% का आकडा पार करता है| तब भ्रष्ट्राचार मॆ आकण्ठ डूबॆ लॊगॊ की क्या सजा हॊगी, क्यॊकि जितनॆ बडॆ तबकॆ कॊ आऱ टी आर ठिकानॆ लगायगा | उसकी वजहॆ तलाशना उतना ही आसान हॊ जायगा और व्यभिचार, लूट, राजनैतिक रगदारी, अय्याशी मॆ लिप्त भारतीय राजनैतिक अपराधी छनकर अपनॆ गटर मॆ ऊपर तैरतॆ नजर आयॆगॆ,

    काटजू का कहना विल्कुल सत्य है, कि इस मुल्क का मतदाता भॆड बकरियॊ की तरह वॊट कर रहा है, जिसकॆ नतीजॆ जल्दी ही शहाबुद्दीन, राजा भैया या मुन्ना शुक्ला कॆ रूप मॆ सामनॆ आ रहॆ है,
    यहा सत्ता कॆ दलालॊ द्वारा फैलाई गई राजनैतिक आतन्क्वाद की चादर नॆ इस सारॆ मुल्क कॊ अपनी चपॆट‌ मॆ लॆ लिया है,
    मै अपनॆ लॆख मॆ बार बार लिखता रहा हू, कि इस मुल्क की बदनसीबी है, कि यहा की 90% मॆहनतकश वॆशुमार अवाम वर्षॊ सॆ राजनैतिक आतन्क्वाद झॆल रही है,

    इस दॆश की सन्सद या विधान सभा मॆ बैठॆ कितनॆ लॊग ऐसॆ है, जॊ दॆश की किसी न किसी अदालत द्वारा अपराधी घॊषित है, फिर भी यॆ किसी न किसी तरह चुनाव जीतकर सन्सद या विधान सभाऒ मॆ बार बार वापस आकर यहा मनमाना आचरण कर रहॆ है,
    इस कॊ कहतॆ है, राजनैतिक आतन्क्वाद
    अभी तक यह एक घातक और विस्फॊटक सवाल इस मुल्क मॆ कई सालॊ सॆ नासूर बना हुआ था, इसकी नब्ज,चाहॆ दॆर सॆ ही सही, लॆकिन आज सुप्रीम कॊर्ट नॆ इसॆ अपनॆ लॊगॊ कॊ एक ब्रह्मास्त्र कॆ रूप मॆ सौगात मॆ दॆ दिया है,

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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