The Election Commission has suggested to the Union government that the law be amended for making a provision in electronic voting machines to enable voters to exercise the option of not casting their votes (Rule 49-O of the Conduct of Election Rules), Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi said here on Saturday.

According to the proposal, the 16{+t}{+h} button in each EVM should be positioned against the legend “None of the above.”

Mr. Quraishi was addressing a two-day conference organised by the National Election Watch and the Association for Democratic Reforms.

“We are supporting it [49-O] from the angle of voters.” The Commission was in favour of the idea to safeguard the secrecy of voters and tackle impersonation.

However, Mr. Quraishi expressed his reservations about the concept, which, he said, could be misdirected. Giving a hypothetical example, the CEC said that under the present system, a candidate getting even one vote would have to be declared winner if, in a class of 100 voters, 99 exercised the option not to vote.

He wanted non-governmental organisations to strive for higher voter turnout. If more people came to vote, there might not be any need for the electors exercising the option of not casting their votes. Favouring a ban on opinion polls, he said this was needed in the backdrop of the ‘paid news' phenomenon. “The opinion poll does interfere with free and fair elections,” he said, adding that the findings of such polls were varied.

Inaugurating the conference, the former West Bengal Governor, Gopalkrishna Gandhi, wanted the media to do soul-search in terms of their treatment of developments concerning corruption. “Accusation of guilt must not degenerate into 24 X 7 scamtainment.”

Referring to the movement launched by Jayaprakash Narayan on corruption in the early 1970s, Mr. Gandhi said JP did not make scam-hunting a full-time obsession. At the same time, the former Governor commended the media for highlighting corruption which, he said, was a serious disease of the country.

Senior advocate N.L. Rajah wanted the Centre to clothe the Election Commission with the power of making rules and regulations. M.G. Devesahayam, convener of the Forum for Electoral Integrity, called upon the people not to compromise with their dignity at the time of elections.

The former Chief Electoral Officer, Naresh Gupta, suggested that an exclusive electoral machinery be created in States up to the field level as was done in Haryana.