India is a democratic country and right to vote is granted to every citizen of India under the Constitution of India. Under Article 326 of the Constitution of India it is provided that “The elections to the House of the People and to the Legislative Assembly of every State shall be on the basic of adult suffrage; that is to say every person who is a citizen of India and who is not less than eighteen years of age and is not disqualified on the ground of non-residence, unsoundness of mind, crime or corrupt or illegal practice shall be entitled to be registered as a voter”.
Under Section 62 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 it is provided that “Every person who is, for the time being entered in the electoral roll of any constituency shall be entitled to vote in that constituency”.
In simple words “every Citizen of India who is not less than eighteen years of age is entitled to get enrolled into electoral roll and is entitled to vote in the constituency in which his name is entered in the electoral roll irrespective of caste, creed, religion or gender unless he is disqualified under the Constitution or any other law on the ground of non-residence, unsoundness of mind, crime or corrupt or illegal practice.
However, there was no right and option available for negative voting, that is to say that a voter was compelled to accept one option whether or not the candidate of the constituency was acceptable to him. There was no option to reject all the candidates because neither on the ballot paper nor on electronic voting machines, such a facility was available for voter to express or put their remarks such as no candidate is acceptable to him.
In this process, the Election Commission had received proposals from a large number of socialists and organizations that there should be a provision for a voter to reject all the candidates in the constituency if he does not find them suitable.
The Election Commission recommended that the law should be amended to specifically provide for negative / neutral voting and recommended to amend Rules 22 and 49B of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 by adding a provision that in the ballot paper after the entry relating to the last candidate, there shall be a column “none of the above”, to enable a voter to reject all the candidates. Such a proposal was earlier made by the Election Commission in 2001 (vide letter dated 10.12.2001).
Landmark Judgement of Supreme Court of India
The Supreme Court of India pronounced a landmark judgement on Friday, the 27th September 2013 through a bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam, Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai and Justice Ranjan Gogoi while hearing a Petition filed by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (an NGO) and gave citizens of India the right to reject all candidates in elections. The apex court further instructed the Election Commission to ensure that the Electronic Voting Machines and ballot papers should have a button that will allow the voters to choose “none of the above” option and the right to say “none of the above” should be kept secret. The Apex court further directed Election Commission to spread this message among voters.
The Apex Court further said as following:
"Negative voting would foster purity and vibrancy in elections and negative voting would bring a systemic change in the election process as the political parties will be forced to project clean candidates in polls ".
"If right to vote is statutory right, right to reject candidate is fundamental right of speech and expression under Article 19 (1) (a) of Constitution of India".