The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to stay the poll panel’s notification allowing None of the Above (NOTA) provision in the upcoming Rajya Sabha polls in Gujarat.
A bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra, Amitava Roy and A M Khanwilkar, however, agreed to examine the constitutional validity of the August 1 notification of the Election Commission allowing the NOTA option.
“Issue notice. We will examine it. We are not going to stay the proceedings,” the bench said when senior advocates Kapil Sibal, A M Singhvi and Harin Raval, representing Gujarat Congress chief whip Shailesh Manubhai Parmar, sought an interim stay on the operation of the poll panel’s notification.
The NOTA provision has been introduced by the poll panel in pursuance of the apex court’s 2014 judgement asking it to consider granting choice of NOTA to the electorate.
The apex court did not agree to the contention of Sibal that NOTA provision “will encourage corruption”.
There are three vacancies of RS seats in Gujarat and four candidates, including Congress leader Ahmed Patel, are fighting for the RS berth.
The petition had sought quashing of the August one circular issued by the secretary of the Assembly. The circular has stated that the NOTA option would be made applicable in the Upper House elections.
It had alleged that use of the option would be violative of the provisions of the Representation of People’s Act, 1951 and the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961.
The plea had sought quashing and declaring as “void” the circulars dated January 24, 2014 and November 12, 2015 issued by the ECI making available the option.
The direction to have NOTA in the elections was enforced in January 2014 after the Supreme Court in 2013 made it mandatory to have the option in the electronic voting machines (EVMs).
In the Rajya Sabha polls, the MLAs have to show their ballot paper to an authorised party agent before putting it in ballot box.
If a voter (MLA) defies the party directive and casts the ballot for someone else or uses the NOTA option, he cannot be disqualified as a legislator.
But the party is free to take disciplinary action including expulsion. The defiant voter can continue to be an MLA and his vote can also not be invalidated for defying the party direction, according to the ECI rules.