In a historic ruling to a petition by the NGO the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), the Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of India P. Sathasivam directed the Election Commission to provide a "non of the above" button on electronic voting machines (EVMs). Voters can press this button and reject all the candidates contesting elections in a constituency.
The court said it will "foster purity and vibrancy in elections."
After nine years' hearing, the apex court passed the order which is likely to be implemented from the next Assembly polls in five states - Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram - scheduled to be held later this year.
Explaining the judgement, Sanjay Parekh, lawyer of the petitioner, said: "The voter is empowered to reject anyone. It is not a negative vote, it is a right of expression given to a voter by the Constitution."
"It is a message that will go to the political parties to field good people in polls for good governance," he said.
"Now political parties should choose candidate with no criminal records," he said.
Former Chief Election Commissioner Naveen Chawla said the move would ensure a better electoral system and it should be implemented as early as possible.
He said it was a long standing demand of them and he hoped it would be implemented before the 2014 general elections.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Balbir Punj, calling it a step forward in democracy, said: "It gives more options to the voter. Election Commission now has to do the needed change in view of the verdict."
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) led by Arvind Kejriwal welcomed the decision. Its leader Yogendra Yadav said in democracy everyone has a right to choose and right to reject.
"The EC had itself asked the government earlier to do it. It is a step forward in the democratic system," he said.
Kejriwal said their next battle would be to see that if all candidates in a constituency are rejected by negative votes getting majority, then a re-election is ordered.
Congress party also welcomed the decision too apparently.
Congress MP Sandeep Dikshit said it is a welcome decision and it remains to be seen how far the system is cleansed by this.
--IBNS (Posted on 27-09-2013)