Nepal court gives voters right to reject candidates

In a landmark judgement, Nepal's Supreme Court has given voters the right to cast negative votes during the parliamentary or local elections.

The court in the verdict yesterday also directed the government and the Election Commission to introduce laws to this effect so the voters can reject candidates, weeks after India introduced "None of the above" option.

A joint bench of justices Kalyan Shrestha and Prakash Wasti issued the order responding to a writ petition filed by two advocates.

With this decision, the ballot papers in coming elections will now have a separate option "none of the above" to allow voters to cast negative votes.

The court in its order has asked the Prime Minister's Office, Election Commission and the Ministry of Law Justice, Constituent Assembly and Parliamentary Affairs (MoLJPA) to ensure negative voting provision in the electoral process.

The court's spokesperson Shreekanta Paudel said the court order ensures the right to reject candidates if the voters do not want the candidates contesting polls elected to public office.

Citing the interim Constitution, which upholds sovereignty of the people, the writ petitioners had demanded that voters must be allowed to cast negative votes in election. "The current provision infringes on the people's right to reject a candidate," the writ petition said.

Following the apex court's decision, Nepal has become the 15th country to ensure negative voting in elections. India, South Africa, Sweden, Finland, France, Belgium, Brazil, Bangladesh, Greece, among others, have negative voting provision in their election laws.

The Supreme Court of India had issued a similar directive in September last year, asking the poll panel to introduce the NOTA option by adding a button on the EVMs. NOTA option made a rather modest debut in the recently held assembly polls.

Meanwhile, President Ram Baran Yadav has initiated political consultations on summoning the newly elected Constituent Assembly (CA).

Yadav today met Ashok Rai, president of Federal Socialist Party here and held discussion on the issue, said sources close to the president.

During the meeting, the president drew the attention of political parties towards settling the contentious issues as soon as possible, said the sources.

The matter of who will summon the CA meeting - the President or the Prime Minister - has been a matter of political debate at present and a writ petition filed in the matter has been pending in the Supreme Court.

The President started political consultations on the matter few days ago when he met President of Nepal Majdoor Kishan Party Narayanman Bijukchhe and other fringe parties' leaders.