Sunday, December 07, 2008

Oops, there is no Section 49-0

I bet you've got that email in your inbox exhorting you to vote for 'nobody'. Because if enough people do that, and 'nobody' gets the maximum votes, the election result will be cancelled and all candidates who stood for that particular election will be disqualified.

And this is all under a section in the Indian Constitution called 49-0.

But sadly, as Shekhar Gupta observed in his column in the Indian Express today:
Any number of illiterate emails and SMSes now float around, not merely cursing politicians, but spreading utter falsehoods about the Constitution and laws... Most of us passed our class X Civics a long time ago, and God alone knows how, so let’s not question anybody’s knowledge of our Constitution.

But none of the thousands of very well-educated, rich, successful, respectable people through whom this silly mail has passed and been forwarded, have bothered to check that venerable document. For, if they did, at least one myth would have been set at rest: Article 49 deals with something very important, but it is not the right of negative vote, but the protection of our monuments.

The funny thing is I actually got to know of this Section 49-0 from a journalist! It was last Sunday and I was on my way to see Oye Lucky when a breathless young voice from DNA called and explained to me what it was all about.

"So what do you think?" she asked.

I said,"Not much... It's just another way to think I have done something when actually you have not. Real change will come only when 10% of the youth who today toil to crack a CAT or GMAT or dream of success in conventional terms change their outlook and devote themselves to the hard task of nation-building."

I have no idea whether a story was published on Monday but a search at the DNA website shows that on Wednesday the paper itself woke up and realised the email being circulated was a hoax.

Goes to show anyone can pull an 'Oye Lucky' ... The mythical section 49-0 expressed an emotion we all felt ("screw those politicians"). And that emotion robbed us of good old common sense!

P.S. Ritesh wrote in with this clarification:

You are very correct in pointing out that such thing does not exists in constitution. But the article being talked about in forwarded mails is actually Rule 49-O of Conduct of election rules. Fact is that there is a "Rule 49-O" in the "Conduct of Election Rules 1961" which is published in the gazette of India which states only that you may decide not to vote even after you have signed the "register of voters". Source: http://lawmin.nic.in/ld/subord/cer1.htm

However, there is still no evidence of revoting if no of people opting out exceeds no of votes secured by the winning candidate. So have really no idea how effective this could be. But at least we can inform people that such a clause exists.

My friend even tried this at recent Rajasthan assembly elections. The booth officer told him to sign against his name in the voter list and write "Not voting to any candidate" against his name.

32 comments:

  1. " Real change will come only when 10% of the youth who today toil to crack a CAT or GMAT or dream of success in conventional terms change their outlook and devote themselves to the hard task of nation-building. "

    Well said. And that requires courage. Courage to denounce the conventions, the traditions and the courage to face the ultimate restrain..which would from none other than one's own conscience. Because deep in their hearts they know that nation building would be the toughest project they will undertake...something which could easily consume their lifetime.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You're right, my inbox has been flooded with '49-O' emails asking me to vote for nobody.

    And yes, 49-O has nothing to do with our constitution. It is a part of the Conduct of Elections rules:

    "49-O. Elector deciding not to vote.-If an elector, after his electoral roll number has been duly entered in the register of voters in Form-17A and has put his signature or thumb impression thereon as required under sub-rule (1) of rule 49L, decided not to record his vote, a remark to this effect shall be made against the said entry in form 17A by the presiding officer and the signature or thumb impression of the elector shall be obtained against such remark."

    It says nothing more, nothing else. Currently, there is no implication to the effect that the election result will be cancelled and all candidates who stood for that particular election will be disqualified, or for that matter, no implication except for what the rule clearly states.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Same thing happened to me... I got all those crazy fwds about 49-0.

    But a better is happening... my company is driving the VOTE FOR campaign with Jaagore.com and everyone is really excited about it.

    If we all vote... we select a good candidate and good candidates will make for a good party as a sum of the parts!!

    Even I've wrote my views about the Mumbai blast titled Mumbai ReUnited... partly because of anger and partly because we are not able to anything for it. There also I've mentioned a few things that we can do..as youths of this country.

    ReplyDelete
  4. PLEASE DO NOT BELIEVE FALSE CAMPAIGNS THAT 49 0 DOES not EXIST. IT EXISTS. SHEKHAR GUPTA AND SEVERAL OTHERS ARE WRONG. 49 0 IS NOT AN ARTICLE OF THE CONSTITUTION, IT IS THE RELEVANT SECTION OF THE PEOPLES REPRESENTATION ACT OF 1961. WE IN TAMILNADU HAVE BEEN CAMPAIGNING ON IT FOR THE LAST FIVE YEARS. DURING LAST LOK SABHA ELECTIONS, MANY OF US VOTED 49 0 HERE. PLEASE REFER TO MY WEBSITE WWW.GNANI.NET AND GO TO 49 0 SECTION IN THAT FOR AN ENLGISH VERSION. I AM A SENIOR JOURNALIST AND WRITER OF TAMILNADU FOR THE LAST 35 YEARS.

    THERE IS A CASE BEFORE THE DELHI HIGH COURT FILED BY RAJENDRA SACHAR ASKING FOR 49 0 BUTTON IN THE ELECTRONIC VOTING MACHINE. ELECTION COMMISSION HAS SAID IT IS READY., MANMOHAN GOVERNMENT HAS NOT FILED A REPLY FOR FOUR YEARS NOW. WE SHOULD ASK THEM TO DO SO NOW.

    PLEASE SPREAD THIS MESSAGE.

    ReplyDelete
  5. http://www.eci.gov.in/PROPOSED_ELECTORAL_REFORMS.pdf

    Section 7 clearly states that 49O exists.

    ReplyDelete
  6. i am still not getting whether 49 0 exist or not ????

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi Rashmi, I can vouch for the fact that Gnani is a well-respected and senior journalist in TN. And he is true in saying this campaign has been going on for some time in TN. I have read articles on the same in leading weekly tamil magazines.

    The other info that might surprise you a little is I had written a blog about the same in April 06(http://indorelife.blogspot.com/2006/04/49-o-and-its-implications.html) and u had even asked for publishing the same in JAM. Now I do not know whether it was actually published in JAM, but the fact remains that this campaign has been on for sometime. Its only now that e-mail forwarding has made it more popular.

    ReplyDelete
  8. @Shankha
    As the name of the document suggests, these are only "proposals" and may not have turned into laws yet.

    ReplyDelete
  9. please understand that 49 0 is now an existing law. it is the relevant section of the peoples representation act of india 1961.

    what remains a proposal is to provide for a button for 49 0 in the electronic voting machine so that the secrecy of exercising it is also protected. this issue is before both supreme court and delhi high court. government of india led by manmohan singh has not replied to the courts for the last four years hence the case is still pending.l we should ask manmohan singh to file a reply immediately.

    as of now, a voter can exercise 49 0 by going to the booth and informing the electoral officer that he/she wants to cast 49 0. the officier will obtain your signature on the register to this effect which completes the process. i have votedc 49 0 in the last two elections in tamilnadu. several of my friends ahve also done that. so please do not be misled by vested interests that it does not exist, it is a myth, it is onlyu a proposal etc., gnani, tamil writer and activist. gnani@gnani.net

    ReplyDelete
  10. It's not 49-0, it is 49-O ('O' as in Orange). It is not a section, it's a Rule (part of Conduct of Election rules). Look for 49-O in this "official" doc:

    http://lawmin.nic.in/ld/subord/cer1.htm

    ReplyDelete
  11. "49-O. Elector deciding not to vote.-If an elector, after his
    electoral roll number has been duly entered in the register of voters
    in Form-17A and has put his signature or thumb impression thereon as
    required under sub-rule (1) of rule 49L, decided not to record his
    vote, a remark to this effect shall be made against the said entry in
    Form 17A by the presiding officer and the signature or thumb
    impression of the elector shall be obtained against such remark."


    Thus while it makes clear, that a registered voter can make his preference clear about not wanting to vote, it however does not saying anything about the consequence of such a non-vote.

    Part 1 of the Proposed Electoral Reforms has a section 7, called "Negative/Neutral Voting", which asks for the following

    "The Commission recommends that the law should be amended to specifically provide for
    negative / neutral voting. For this purpose, Rules 22 and 49B of the Conduct of Election
    Rules, 1961 may be suitably amended adding a proviso that in the ballot paper and the
    particulars on the ballot unit, in the column relating to names of candidates, after the
    entry relating to the last candidate, there shall be a column “None of the above”, to
    enable a voter to reject all the candidates, if he chooses so. Such a proposal was earlier
    made by the Commission in 2001 (vide letter dated 10.12.2001)."


    You can check that document here --> Proposed electoral Reforms

    But we're not yet sure if these proposals were accepted and turned into laws yet.

    Click here to check the present implications of rule 49-O

    So, it would be great if one of us could direct energy towards confirming that fact, and presenting it to the community with the apt evidence.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Gnani,

    The more important point is: what happens after you vote 49-O? Even if the election was cancelled, how is that a worthwhile solution? Who governs the country? That's a recipe for digging ourselves into an even deeper hole. Vote for the best amongst all the bad candidates...or then go out and stand for election yourself!

    Aalok

    ReplyDelete
  13. Interesting Debate - But can someone clarify - Is this Rule a Law as yet? and what if thres no one (if nobody wins?) back to the incumbent ? Governors rule/Presidents Rule?

    ReplyDelete
  14. For a minute, let's assume it is a law. Who is the loser here? you as a tax payer. Conducting elections isn't cheap. Let's say everybody did not vote and the elections got disqualified, then what? Re-election at some point of time.

    The only reason for 'buying time' is that if forward looking, result oriented people try to compete the next time. If that isn't happening, there is no point in re-election.

    In my opinion the politians (anywhere in the world) listen (at least pretend to) to the people before the election. A solution to not selecting an inefficient administration is to ask the candidates tough questions before the elections. Organize city wide public meetings. Invite all the candidates ask them questions have them debate over the issues. Record the debates or invite the media. Ask for specific things that they will do to help the city or constituencies. What have they done in the past. How many of their promises have they fulfilled in the past and the reasons why they did not do what they promised for.

    Yes, I agree it is easier said than done, but someone has to do it.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hi

    As some have rightly pointed out, Article 49-O exists and it makes provision for a neutral or a negative vote.

    In no case, however, would a re-election be conducted.

    I believe that some group has filed a PIL to ammend the rule in order to ensure there's a re-election in case the number of neutral/negative votes exceed the votes received by the winning candidate. Let's see if that ever happens.

    In any case, I do not buy Gaurav's point. At least the parties will be more responsible in appointing the right candidates if there is a chance that noone is elected.

    Let's not be skeptical :)

    ReplyDelete
  16. I haven't read all the comments yet - but I do work for a former chief election officer of Maharashtra and can confirm that 49-O does exist. It allows you to vote for "no one", thereby registering the fact that you've voted and no one can cast a bogus vote in your name.

    The second part of the rumour about elections being re-held if majority votes are blank is NOT TRUE. An amendment has been suggested several years ago, and is still pending review.

    It's good to see people spreading the right word for a change though!

    ReplyDelete
  17. http://lawmin.nic.in/ld/subord/cer1.htm

    ReplyDelete
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