NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday allowed the use of the ‘None of the Above” (NOTA) option in the upcoming poll for three Rajya Sabha seats in Gujarat+ .
It refused a Congress party plea to stay the use of the voting option.
The SC said the use of the NOTA option is a constitutional issue which needs to be debated. It asked the Election Commission (EC) to respond in two weeks to the Congress petition disallowing NOTA. The SC then set September 18 as the date to hear detailed arguments on the issue. Since the election in Gujarat for the RS seats is on August 8, it means legislators will be able to exercise the NOTA option during the poll.
The top court had a day earlier agreed to hear a plea moved by the Gujarat Congress to remove NOTA+ . Senior advocate and Congress leader Kapil Sibal had sought an urgent hearing.
In its arguments earlier, the Congress party told the SC that if the NOTA option is allowed, its legislators’ (MLAs’) votes would be “bought” by other parties to defeat its candidate. It would also become “a tool for corruption”, the Congress added.
The SC said the EC had issued a notification allowing the use of NOTA in RS polls as early as in 2014 and therefore it didn’t understand why the Congress “realised the voting option’s pitfalls” at this late date.
Though the BJP has supported not using NOTA, the BJP-led NDA government has maintained a strategic silence in the SC on the issue. Attorney general K K Venugopal meanwhile said the Centre has nothing to do with the July 24 EC notification allowing NOTA to be used in the Gujarat RS polls.
The Congress’s candidate for one of the three RS seats is Ahmed Patel+ . Four candidates are contesting for the three Rajya Sabha seats. The others are BJP national president Amit Shah, union minister for textile minister Smriti Irani and Congress rebel Balwantsinh Rajput.
Congress advocate Sibal said this is the first time there are four candidates for three RS seats in Gujarat.