New Delhi/Ahmedabad, Aug 3 (IANS) Smarting after the Supreme Court’s refusal on Thursday to stay an Election Commission notification to introduce the None of the Above (NOTA) option for the August 8 Rajya Sabha election in Gujarat, the Gujarat Congress maintained that it would stick to the whip issued to its legislators to vote for the party’s official candidate, Ahmed Patel.
A bench of Justice Dipak Misra, Justice Amitava Roy and Justice A.M. Khanwilkar refused to stay the notification. However, they issued a notice to the poll panel for September 13 to examine the constitutional validity of the notification.
This follows a petition filed by the Chief whip of the Congress in the Gujarat Assembly, Shailesh Parmar, who moved the court seeking quashing of the August 1 notification introducing NOTA for the August 8 election.
Parmar told IANS in the evening, “Irrespective of the Supreme Court decision, our whip issued to all our MLAs to vote for the party’s official nominee, Ahmedbhai Patel, who is a sitting Rajya Sabha MP, continues to hold.”
“And our MLAs are well aware what action could follow for defying the party’s whip,” he said, insisting that they could face disqualification for six years.
Gujarat Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi said the party had the numbers for Ahmed Patel, the political secretary of party chief Sonia Gandhi.
After six Gujarat Congress MLAs left the party last week, the party has ferried 44 of its MLAs to a resort near Bengaluru in party-ruled Karnataka, to prevent further poaching by the BJP.
The Supreme Court questioned the delay in filing the petition against NOTA. “Why did you (petitioner) move the court so late? When it suited you, you did not come. You come here on the eve of elections,” the apex court bench asked.
The court said the Election Commission issued a notification in January 2014 and another circular in 2015. “You did not act upon it because it was not prejudice to you, so you remained silent.”
After the court refused to stay the notification, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Parmar, said that including NOTA in this election would “encourage corruption”.
“Including NOTA will encourage corruption. It’s a recipe for corruption. If you don’t stay the notification on NOTA, it will let people purchase votes,” Sibal earlier told the court.
Sibal said without a corresponding amendment in the Act and the Rules, any purported administrative action of the Election Commission to introduce NOTA was ex-facie illegal and arbitrary.
The petition alleged that use of the option would be violative of the provisions of the Representation of People’s Act, 1951, and the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961.
The plea also sought quashing and declaring as “void” the circulars dated January 24, 2014 and November 12, 2015 issued by the Commission making available the option.
The direction to have NOTA in the elections was enforced in January 2014 after the Supreme Court in 2013 made it mandatory to have the option in the electronic voting machines (EVMs).
The Congress on Tuesday had moved the EC and demanded that the provision of NOTA should not be made in the ballot papers for the August 8 Rajya Sabha election as it would render the system of proportional representation “nugatory and otiose” — or render it inconsequential.
The EC had, however, said the panel had made it clear in its communications following a Supreme Court judgment of 2013 that NOTA option would be applicable in the Rajya Sabha election.
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