Rule 49-O: Null Voting, A Weapon For the Indian Voters -Srinivas.Katta

The Supreme Court has directed the Election Commission to provide a button on voting machines to allow voters to reject all candidates contesting an election in a constituency.

Recently all parties Suggested the election commission to add a printer to the electronic Voting machines. This is just like the printer of ATM which gives the balance slips after the transaction.  And here is an other demand for the additional button in the EVM ballot unit to use fundamental right in a right way, By rejecting all contesting candidates.

There is a system in Indian constitution, as per the 1969 act, in section “49-O” that a person can go to the polling booth, confirm his identity, get his finger marked and convey the presiding election officer that he doesn’t want to vote anyone.

So You can say that I Don’t want to Vote any body and You have a facility to show your rejection againt the total contestants. This provision is  called “49-O”.  What is the benefit of saying like this ?  It shows the rejection strategy of that polling area. And If it is more than the polled vote subsequently polling will be cancelled. If the “49-O” voters may get silent it will not happen. For example if a candidate won by 143 vote and If  that particular Ward/booth  may received “49-O” votes more than 143 then that polling will be cancelled and will have to be re-polled.  Not only that, but the candidature of the contestants will be removed and they cannot contest the re-polling, since the voters had previously expressed their decision on them. This would bring fear in Contestants and parties. This may  produce the genuine candidate and also genuinity in the candidates. And then the whole political system change. It is better  for the Election commission to reveal this feature to the public.

Facts about 49-O:

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.

This Infers that in no case will there be a re polling in the said constituency, however the negative/neutral vote is registered and counted so as to cross check on the total number of votes polled. encourages Voters to cast a protest vote incase they feel there is no right candidate to vote for.

Here is what the Election Commission has to say on NEGATIVE / NEUTRAL VOTING:

The Commission has received proposals from a very large number of individuals and organizations that there should be a provision enabling a voter to reject all the candidates in the constituency if he does not find them suitable. In the voting using the conventional ballot paper and ballot boxes, an elector can drop the ballot paper without marking his vote against any of the candidates, if he chooses so. However, in the voting using the Electronic Voting Machines, such a facility is not available to the voter. Although, Rule 49 O of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 provides that an elector may refuse to vote after he has been identified and necessary entries made in the Register of Electors and the marked copy of the electoral roll, the secrecy of voting is not protected here inasmuch as the polling officials and the polling agents in the polling station get to know about the decision of such a voter.

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 provision 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 ìNone 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).


What is a NULL VOTE?

According to the Rule 49-O in the Conduct of Elections, 1961, of India -

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.

How to register a NULL VOTE?

Presently, as the EVMs don’t have any option to select NO candidate, to register a NULL VOTE, one needs to register his details at the polling booth, and then inform the presiding officer that he wishes to vote for nobody, or register a NULL VOTE, or vote against all candidates. In case of paper ballot, one can just stamp the names of multiple candidates or not stamp at all, to waste his vote.

Why should you register a NULL vote?

Hoax: Many people believe that if the number of NULL votes in any election exceeds the votes of the winning candidate, the election will be cancelled and re-conducted. Not only that, the candidature of all the current candidates will be cancelled and each party will have to field new candidates. This seems to be a very powerful way to ensure that no corrupt or criminal candidates are fielded by any party and we get better candidates to choose from.

Reality: However, this is not the truth. There is no clause in the Conduct of Elections that states what has been written above. In the event of null votes, the null votes will be discarded and the winning candidate will still be chosen. No candidates will be barred and no re-polling will be conducted that the candidates will be barred even in the event of a majority NULL vote. So in effect, your NULL vote will have no effect on the results of the election.

Official Clarification -

In December 2008, the Election Commission said in a press release -

“It has been brought to the notice of the Commission that various misleading reports are being circulated though the Press, the electronic media, emails and through SMS to the effect that if the number of voters who choose to exercise their option not to vote for any contesting candidate as provided in Rule 49-O of Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961, exceeds the margin of votes secured by the winning candidate over the runner up, this will invalidate the election and a repoll will be held. It is clarified that under Rule 49-O, the voter has an option not to vote at the election after he has been identified at the polling station and his name has been registered in Registers of voters (Form -17A). The Presiding Officer shall thereupon make a note to that effect against the name of that voter and obtain his signature (thumb impression in the case of an illiterate). In such case, the voters who exercise the option of not voting at the election under Rule 49-O would only be deemed to have abstained themselves from voting and under the law, the candidate who secures highest number of valid votes polled, irrespective of his winning margin, is declared elected.”

So just ignore all the “awakening” chain emails you receive; There is absolutely no difference between you NOT voting and you casting a NULL vote. Neither will have any effect on the result of the elections. Rather refrain from voting if you don’t want to elect any candidate.

How does one do it?

In the earlier setup, where votes were cast into ballot boxes, it was extremely simple to do it. All one had to do was take the ballot paper issued to you and drop it in the box without putting the stamp on any candidate. This, when counting the ballot papers, would be taken as an indication of Rule 49-O being invoked by the voter.

However, with the introduction of Electronic Voting Machines [EVM] in all forms of Elections [or at least in the Municipal Corporation, Assembly and General elections that I have voted in], one has to approach the presiding officer from the Election Commission and ask for the relevant form and once filled, the voters choice is noted.

Critics, quite rightly, argue that this is in complete violation of one of our rights as an Indian citizen - secrecy of the ballot. The choice exercised by a voter is to remain a secret and no one has the right to know the choices we make. By approaching the officer and requesting for the form we give up this right as everyone would come to know about the choice you make - that of not choosing anybody. A ’None of the above’ button could easily have been added to the E.V.M for voters to exercise this right, but strangely enough the Election Commission has so far refrained from doing so.

Is there any hope?

The Election Commission in 2004, recommended that a provision be made for voters to register NULL or NEGATIVE votes and that a ‘Reject All Candidates’ option be included in EVMs to protect the secrecy of those wishing to cast NULL votes. However, no decision has yet been made on this issue. Several petitions have also been filed to enable NULL voting, but none of them have been acted upon yet. Hopefully, such a concept should be implemented soon.

Compiled by : Srinivas. Katta

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  1. Sunil says:

    Thanks Mr. Srinivas for this valuable information.
    It is really disastrous that Null vote = No Vote here.
    Then why an elector will go for voting if he doesn’t want to choose any of the candidate. This is the violation of one’s voting right and election commission must take necessary step to check this issue so as to assure the citizens’ faith in democratic setup & values and if the Null Votes > Valid vote then current poll should be cancelled so that for repolling the candidature of present candidates automatically gets cancelled.

  2. UMA says:

    Thanks for the information. If the candidate who secures highest number of valid votes polled, irrespective of his winning margin, is declared elected, then atleast the highest number of null votes poled in that particular constitution can be revealed, so that the candidates may know how many people are hating every one of them.

  3. alertraj says:

    thanks for sharing it with everyone.. publish this kind of public aware ness articles. Greetings from the Speedy DNS.

  4. very interesting and it is a need to spread the message to all.

  5. Susanne says:

    nice post.. keeep rock zat

  6. sherry says:

    this good informetion for those citigen who not vote any candidates and waste thare vote. 49 O, RULE IS BEST OPTION TO RAGISTER,YOUR ANGER

  7. Ashutosh says:

    Thanks for information

  8. Dinesh says:

    This is not aware to most of the voters, request the Election commission and the media to help in awaring to the pulic, which would make our country to run a curroptionless democratic economy.

  9. anikethan says:

    If 49-o votes of a candidate is more than his actual votes, there will not be any repoll and as well as his candidature will not be cancelled. This is a hoax news circulating every where. Please refer this :

    I wish this hoax was just the truth. At least then we could teach some valuable lessons to the corrupt candidates.

  10. Puneet says:

    I would like to quote my experience in vidhan sabha election, I asked for the form 17 A but the electrorial officer requested me to cast the in favour any of the candidate, he told me that if I will fill the form 17A then they have to do lot of paper work. Apart from this the record of that polling both will have the bad patch.
    I request elections commission to make the rule little bit easy so that one can use his right.cause this is also a right of a voter.

  11. mohanraj says:

    sir after voting for 49[o], the paper should be teared and they are polling for the parties. wat to do with this?.. and our votes are misused TO AVOID THIS INCLUDE A POLLING SWITCH IN THE POLLING MACHINE FOR 49[O]…{THINK AND ACT}

  12. India Current Affairs says:

    mohanraj garu yes including that kind of switch is very useful.
    agree with you. yours Srinivas.katta

  13. Srinaath says:

    Please add null vote in EVM’s and you can see all candidates getting rejected in urban areas, also election commission has to speed up the process of changing a citizen’s constituency i.e. i wish to vote in city but my constituency is my native village.

  14. India Current Affairs says:

    Srinaath garu
    ha ha You are right..
    yours Srinivas.Katta

  15. priya says:

    if this 49 0 comes to current machines we are going to vote that

  16. deep says:

    election this Monday in Gujarat. this won’t help to re-conduct elections though i will be using this to make mark to bring reject all button in EVM !!

  17. Ronald says:

    thanks for interesting info. i believe a negative vote (thereby rejecting all listed candidates) is still a vote. and it has to be taken into account to reduce the count of all candidates who received a vote.

  18. sachin says:

    this is required all indian knowldge this rules and if you are not intrested given vat any body but they are go there voting area and pl sign.

  19. SUNIL says:


  20. raj says:

    well increase the number of no votes and see somewhere the no votes have to come instead of abstaining and better if it can come in evm

  21. Shyam says:

    Hello !

    If i go into a polling booth and go inside the voting area and not press any button and come out, i feel NUll vote can be done tn this way also

  22. [...] By this means we can cast our vote rightly and if even after all these we don’t find any suitable candidate then Election Commission of India has also provided provision of casting our vote in no one’s favor and this is known as Null Voting or Rule 49-O. [...]

  23. Prasanna Kumar says:

    my opinion is if people are not voting then it should be considered it as negative voting.

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