In a setback to the Congress, the Supreme Court refused to stay the Election Commission’s notification allowing NOTA in the upcoming Rajya Sabha elections on August 8 in Gujarat. The apex court has, however, agreed to examine the constitutional 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 tostay the proceedings,” the bench said.
Hearing the plea on Thursday, the three-judge bench of Justices Dipak Misra, Amitav Roy and A M Khanwilkar questioned the petitioner over the delay in raising the issue. “why are you so late in raising the question as EC issued notification in Jan 2014?,” the bench observed.
In his plea, Gujarat Congress chief whip, Shailesh Manubhai Parmar, asked the court to quash the notification as it violates the provisions of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, and Conduct of Election Rules, 1961.
“Without a corresponding amendment in the Act and the Rules, any purported administrative action of the Election Commission of India to introduce NOTA is ex-facie illegal, arbitrary and in fact tainted with malafide,” said the plea.
On August 8, elections will be held for three seats in Gujarat. The BJP fielded its president Amit Shah, Union Minister Smriti Irani and ex-Congress MLA Balwantsinh Rajput and the Congress has fielded Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary, Ahmed Patel.
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.