Anna Hazare’s call on Sunday for theright to reject and right to recall rekindled the debate about these electoral concepts that have been going on in some corners. Right to reject – the idea that there should be an option on a ballot paper (or a voting machine) to reject all candidates – has been debated in India for some time. This proposal was part of the recommendations on electoral reforms the Election Commission made to the government in 2004, when TS Krishnamurthy was chief election commissioner.
This idea is also known as negative voting or neutral voting. Currently, if a person does not wish to cast her vote for any candidate, there is an option to record this decision with the presiding officer under Section 49 (o) of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961. However, this has no bearing on the poll outcome. The neutral voting concept, on the contrary, will have a bearing on the poll outcome. Various filters can be designed to disqualify a candidate rejected by a majority of the people. Swami Agnivesh and several others have been supporters on the right to reject idea.
In 2007, the Supreme Court rejected a public interest litigation demanding a right to reject option, saying the petitioners should wait for a government decision on the EC recommendations. Right to recall is a concept that allows the recorded disapproval of a certain minimum section of electorate to recall an elected candidate.
This is most famously exercised by several cantons in Switzerland, even though the right does not exist at the federal level in that country. Some states in the United States also allow people to recall their governors.