What is Rule 49-O?

What is Rule 49-O and How Does it Work?

The Constitution of India gives the right to every Indian citizen who is a voter, to abstain from voting for any candidate if he/she finds all the candidates in an election fray ineligible for her/his vote.
Democracy itself, is defined as a form of government in which the power of a country is held by the people under a free electoral system. Political rights are also a part of human rights. So, every citizen has a right to vote for a candidate, who he/she trusts capable of understanding public issues and making decisions for the betterment of the public. However, there could also be a scenario where a voter thinks that none of the competing candidates are eligible to get his/her vote.

In such a situation, the voter is free to register for Rule 49-O and express his/her decision. The presiding officer in an election would register the voter's decision, and the latter has to sign or give a thumb impression against the remark. Also, it has been mentioned that the negative/neutral vote would be considered at the time of counting of votes. However, the major flaw in this process is the violation of secret voting, since the voter has to inform the presiding officer about his/her decision, which is noted down by the officer. To overcome this, the Supreme Court of India recently directed the Election Commission of India to provide a 'None of the Above' (NOTA) button in the Electronic Voting Machines (EVM). The order was passed on September 28, 2013, and would be implemented from the Assembly Elections of 2013 and General Elections to be held in 2014, onwards. This button would help voters who do not want to vote for any of the candidates in the fray to register their opinion without disclosing their identity, which was the case in any earlier election process.

Rule 49-O: Text
49-O. Elector deciding not to vote. - If an elector, after his electoral roll number has been duly entered in the register of voters in Form-17A and has put his signature or thumb impression thereon as required under sub-rule (1) of rule 49L, decided not to record his vote, a remark to this effect will be made against the said entry in Form 17A by the presiding officer and the signature or thumb impression of the elector shall be obtained against such remark.

However, it should be noted that, even if the number of votes cast for NOTA exceeds the number of votes gained by any candidate, a candidate securing number of votes second to the NOTA would still be declared as the winner according to the 'first-past-the-post' (FPTP) system adapted by India to elect candidates in an election.
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