SC refuses to register 'right to reject' plea

Published On: February 27, 2017 01:00 AM NPT By: Bhadra Sharma

KATHMANDU, Feb 27: Going against one of its own previous verdicts, the Supreme Court (SC) on Sunday refused to register a writ petition demanding that the right to reject, popularly known as None of the Above (NOTA), be implemented in the upcoming local level elections. 

Advocates Swagat Nepal and Bhiraja Rai tried to move the court, arguing that the apex court's previous verdiCt on NOTA should be translated into practice. SC Registrar Nripadhwoj Niraula, however, refused to register the writ, claiming that it was up to parliament to decide whether to implement the court order and that the SC cannot interfere into the House' jurisdiction. 

The petitioners, however, termed the court administration's decision as a 'ridiculous one'.

Issuing a verdict in January 2015, the SC had asked the government and other concerned stakeholders to ensure provision for the people to cast negative votes by choosing 'none of the above (NOTA)' in accordance with international practices. Based on the court verdict the EC had introduced the NOTA provision while drafting the Local Body Working Procedures. 

The government, however, dropped the provision, while approving the draft law prepared by the election body. 

When EC started lobbying for the inclusion of NOTA provision, the Prime Minister's Office and the political parties had opted for removing the provision, saying that the right to reject could invite complications while conducting elections in a developing democratic country like Nepal.

The parties were pressing the election body to remove the NOTA provision, saying it could affect politics when a majority of voters opt for none of the candidates in the election. 

Election experts objected to the government's decision, calling it a 'wrong move'.

"Obviously, it's up to parliament to endorse the law. Since the NOTA provision was dropped by the cabinet, the court should have registered the writ and issued a verdict mounting pressure on the government to enforce progressive electoral provisions," said former chief election commissioner Neel Kantha Uprety. 
 Most developed countries have implemented the NOTA provision in their elections. In South Asia, India and Bangladesh have NOTA provisions while Pakistan reversed such a provision following non-cooperation by the political parties.

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