HC rejects PIL plea seeking directions to EC to create voter awareness on NOTA option  

The Aurangabad Bench of the Bombay High Court said the EC and the Maharashtra State Election Commission have taken enough steps to create awareness about the NOTA option in EVMs. 

April 02, 2024 03:50 am | Updated 03:50 am IST - MUMBAI: 

Image used for representational purpose.

Image used for representational purpose. | Photo Credit: V. Sudershan

The Aurangabad Bench of the Bombay High Court had dismissed a public interest litigation (PIL) petition on March 22 seeking directions to the Election Commission (EC) to create awareness among the public about the ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) option in electronic voting machines (EVM). A copy of the judgment was made public on April 1.

Rejecting the plea, the Bench said the EC and the Maharashtra State Election Commission had taken enough steps to create awareness about the NOTA option in EVMs.

A Division Bench of Justices Ravindra V. Ghuge and R.M. Joshi noted that the petitioner, Suhas Wankhede, a PhD student, had filed a similar PIL plea earlier. In this PIL, Mr. Wankhede prayed that the EC should appoint a brand ambassador and start a campaign for NOTA.

The court referred to the previous PIL plea filed by the same petitioner in which a detailed order was passed on October 14, 2019, and said the issues raised by the petitioner had already been addressed by the Supreme Court in the People’s Union for Civil Liberties case. The Supreme Court had directed the EC to include the NOTA option in EVMs and undertake awareness programmes to educate the masses.

The court said, “The long form of ‘NOTA’ is conspicuously mentioned in bold letters and catches the attention of the voter immediately. The instructions are also set out in bold letters that ‘NOTA’ is available as the last option in the electronic voting machine.”

“We find that the Election Commission has already come out with a manual on Systematic Voters Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP), which was published in July 2020. The SVEEP Strategy 2022-2025 (4) was also published. Having considered the above factors and the steps taken by the EC and the State Election Commission, and the fact that this petitioner had filed an identical petition earlier, this PIL petition is dismissed”, the court said.  

Awareness programmes

The court order also elaborated on initiatives undertaken by the EC to raise awareness about NOTA. These initiatives included awareness programmes through mobile demonstration vans, electoral literacy programmes conducted at different locations, advertisements in leading national dailies, distribution of voter guides, and awareness activities after the last day of candidate withdrawal.

A pamphlet titled “Chunav Ka Parv, Desh Ka Garv, Lok Sabha Election 2024” was received from the EC, which served as a voters’ guide. The pamphlet contained information on the voting process, including the use of EVMs, the NOTA option, steps taken by the EC to educate voters and emphasised the importance of voting.

“This pamphlet is a pictorial guide to the voters to make them aware of their rights and duties. It begins with making the voter aware of the process of registration online as well as offline, verification of details, enrollment as a new voter, method of searching the name in the voters’ list, etc. So also, the voter is made aware that a holiday is declared on the polling day to facilitate casting of vote. A catchy statement is also set out as “It is not a holiday, it is a voting day”, read the court judgment.

The court directed the registry to scrutinise any future petitions filed by him on similar issues before registering them. The court also exempted him from any cost for filing the same petition for the second time, considering he is a PhD student.  

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