Ahmedabad: State Election Commission (SEC) face criticism yet again as the Gujarat High Court pointed out their reluctance in implementation of the NOTA (none of the above) option in the coming municipal and panchayat elections in the State.
A Division Bench on Friday directed the SEC to implement it and the State government to give the SEC necessary help.
Rejecting the SEC’s contention that it was not possible to include the NOTA button in the electronic voting machines in 20 days because the polls are scheduled for November 22 and 29, the court said the SEC must provide the option as directed by the Supreme Court.
“The SEC was reluctant to implement it for the civic polls, but the High Court stood firm”, said K.R. Koshti, a lawyer who filed the petition challenging the SEC’s decision not to have the option.
The Bench also modified its previous order that stayed a plan for compulsory voting in these polls.
“Considering the facts and the Supreme Court’s decision, we find that the right to vote in favour of none of the candidates is one of the rights of the electorate, and it is so identified and strengthened by the Supreme Court. Therefore, the interim stay [on compulsory voting] deserves to be modified to that extent [for inclusion of NOTA],” the Bench said in its order.
“However, as for the apprehensions voiced by the SEC over the difficulties on account of the modification of this order, we find it should be expected of the SEC to encourage more freedom on the part of the voters. Difficulties cannot be equated with impossibilities,” the court said.
Earlier, the court pulled up the SEC for putting off the local bodies polls by three months, citing the law and order situation, and asked it to hold the elections for six municipal corporations, 30 district panchayats, 230 block panchayats and 55 municipalities immediately.