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Rule 49 (O) April 27, 2006

Posted by scan man in Life in India, Politics.

It is election time again in Tamil Nadu. The Tamil Nadu State Assembly Election of 2006 is scheduled for May 8. The outcome will determine who governs us for the next five years.

The sitting member of the Legislative Assembly for my constituency is from the Communist Party of India (Marxist). The Communists, who are part of the DMK-led alliance have entered a fresh face into the fray this time. The candidate for the main opposition alliance led by the AIADMK is not well-known. There are about ten other candidates, most contesting as 'Independents' and a few from some of the minor parties.

The general opinion in the constituency, which has many industries and a strong trade union base, is that the Communists will hold on to the seat. The other candidates do not seem to have any realistic chance of winning.

My problem: I do not like any of the contestants in my constituency. I am never going to vote for a Communist. I don't like any of the other candidates. I don't want to vote for any of the others anyway as they are openly being talked of as potential losers. So I resigned myself to not exercising my democratic privilege in this election.

I learnt recently that there is another option open to voters like me. Rule 49 (O) of the Conduct of Election Rules 1961 gives the voter the right to register at the polling booth, get his/her index finger inked, but refrain from casting the vote. The electoral officer then has to make an entry under the rule.

The Indian Democracy reveals such surprises sometimes. And here is the really good part. If the rejections exceed the number of votes polled, a re-election is ordered, but the rejected candidates do not have the right to contest again.

But there is a fundamental flaw in this. The fact that the voter opted for Rule 49 (O) will be known to everyone in the polling station. The secrecy of the ballot – one of the few unalienable rights of an Indian citizen – is lost. The Constitution bars even the courts from knowing a voter's choice of candidate under section 94 of the Representation of Peoples Act, 1954.

Rule 49 (O), though flawed, works – whether we use ballot papers or Electronic Voting Machines (EVM). We don't use ballot papers anymore in Tamil Nadu. All the polling stations (4824) for all the constituencies (234) in the state will use EVMs.

It would be technically very easy to mark one of the buttons as 'None of the Above' to facilitate negative or neutral voting. This would also maintain the secrecy of the ballot. Our highly efficient and fiercely independent Election Commission had recommended such a change in 2001. It also figures prominently in the current proposal for electoral reforms put forward by the commission. (you can download a pdf file of the proposals here). A petition by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties seeking such a provision filed at the time of the last Parliamentary election (2004) is pending before the Supreme Court.

I am not surprised at the delay in implementing the change. I cannot imagine any of our current politicians supporting it. In fact I have not heard of even one politician mentioning this. At least some of the politicians keep mouthing platitudes about '33% reservation for women in the legislature', 'Uniform Civil Code' etc.. But I believe that no politician in his/her right mind would ever support a change in the electoral process which has the potential to make his/her election ineligible.

I can only hope that something of this sort will be implemented by the time the next election comes around.

If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear. – George Orwell.



1. Moof - April 27, 2006

What an interesting idea! We need the 49 (0) rule here in the States! I would have used that one on more than one occasion.

From the way it sounds, your government seriously wants to discourage the use of that rule … like you’ve said, “It would be technically very easy to mark one of the buttons as ‘None of the Above’ to facilitate negative or neutral voting.

About implementing the change on your ballots, you know that the politicos are going to drag their feet all the way. Voters may need to begin making a lot of noise in order to make it happen …

Great post! Interesting info! Thanks!!!

2. Pk - April 28, 2006

I would have used it in our last mayoral race! Just a few weeks ago!

I didn’t vote because I was under anesthesia at the time …but you get the point.

Scan Man, if there is a way to write in a vote, you could write in Gwen (pig) 😉

3. Nitin S Jadhav - June 9, 2006

Thanks a lot for such a good article on 49-O. While googling through the net I though I will have to create one but your article decscribes it all. I will be posting this in Orkut Communities for peoples awareness.

4. nitish - June 9, 2006

indian constitution is pretty okay in spirit
it is in implementation that its keepers deliberately falter.

5. Saj - June 9, 2006

I actually wrote to the Supreme Court for this, to give the voters one more option in the ballot paper ‘none of the above’. I still have a copy of the letter but no response.
Can we do something about it?

6. Aneek - June 14, 2006

this is an amazing fact & hardly anyone knows abt this rule ….. this can be worked against a system which is not working for public….. thanx for this piece of news

7. K.M.Roy - July 29, 2006

please give a detailed report of section 49(0)

8. K.M.Roy - July 29, 2006

If the rule is correct, why the politicians are keeping this details away from the public?. actually, this news should publisise so that common man will get a great chance to keep away the corrupt politicians..

9. Kapil Advani - August 23, 2006

Knowing that the politicians themselves will not on their own volition give voice to this provision in law , we must get the media involved big time into popularising the presence of this provision .

10. sumanth - August 28, 2006

Scan Man

Well written piece… I was searching up for information on 49-O elsewhere when I came across your post. Highly educative.


11. Sumit Ghosh - August 31, 2006

Lets spread the awareness of 49(O), lets teach those politicialns a lesson of democracy. LETS UNITE against this pseudo-democracy with the weapon “49(O)”. JAI HIND…

12. Sunil Chowdhary - September 5, 2006

I think this is what people of Surat should do in the next elections to show their discord against the rulers who caused this massive destruction of floods.

13. seshuram - September 25, 2006

Yes! This is needed. OfCourse, I am doing almost the same thing for the last few years, whenever I am going to vote. Till now I have not voted to any body or any party. Whenever I went to vote, simply I take the ballot paper and I vote to all the persons without leaving any body unmarked.
That’s It!…The vote can not be useful for any one..Try It..This can be done confidential also.

14. Mustafa Azad - September 29, 2006

I have personaly forwarded the 49-O email to as many of my indian friends and will not stop at anything to make my people aware of it.
Pls do as much as u can to make ppl aware of this thing.
This is the only to give it to corrupt politicians IN THEIR FACE.


15. Mustafa Azad - September 29, 2006

jus to make ppl more aware here is the official link from Electoral commision of india and 49-O is on page 80


16. RAVI NAIR - October 17, 2006

sir i want some clarification on this clause which u hv mentioned in ur article as follows

“The Indian Democracy reveals such surprises sometimes. And here is the really good part. If the rejections exceed the number of votes polled, a re-election is ordered, but the rejected candidates do not have the right to contest again.”


17. RAVI NAIR - October 17, 2006

sir – 49(o) just say that u hv the right to protest ur vote.. but if protest voting exced the vote poll by the winning candidate —— does re-election takes place- does all the candidate in that constituency lose their right to contest next election…….. is this provision there in our constitution or in election rules. if yes. pls provide me with the copy of the same or let me know under which section its there………. so that v can work & inform further in the topic.

18. Avinash - October 25, 2006

this look good idea. But the question is what fundamental change it can bring in the system. The candidate may be rejected once, but what is gurantee that the next candidate will be bettter. When most of the voting is influenced by castism and relatives. There is no way that quality of candidate can be increased untill and unless the mentality of the people is not changed. History is evident that it not government that have ameliorate the people rather its other way round. The peoples have to drag goverment.

19. Ajit Singh - November 7, 2006

There is no rules like 49-O. It is a hoax.

20. Citizen - November 22, 2006

Can anyone actually substantiate the existance of such a section in the Constitution of India? Or is it just wishfull thinking? Appreciate if you could give links where enough proof for 49 (O) is given.

21. Vijayprakash - December 19, 2006

Government Speak of Right to Information. The Citizen should be aware of this options at the time of election. EC is an autonomous body, then why are they hiding this 49(0) from the common people. If this the case with EC, then why do we need this commission. It was last in 1960 that people came to know about 49(0), after that no body know this. Pass this information to each and every citizen so that they are aware of this option and able to choose the right party.


22. Amit Mahajan - January 20, 2007


I have gone through the ElectionCommision’s website. There is no mention to the controversial issue of “Re-voting”. There is no metion in the section 49-O of anything like this, “If the rejections exceed the number of votes polled, a re-election is ordered, but the rejected candidates do not have the right to contest again.”

Could you pls clarify that where is this mentioned.

The Election commision website says that:

The election comission web site mention the following about section 49-O, “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.” (Source: http://lawmin.nic.in/ld/subord/cer1.htm)

23. magiclens - January 24, 2007

ScanMan, your post is very informative but i guess you have an obligation to respond to the comments related to your post.

49-O of Conduct of Election Rules 1961 talks only about an option to cast a “protest vote” it does not guarantee a re poll or rejection of any candidate. You forgot to mention the source for that information which many ppl are expecting.

Also it is incorrect to say the Election Commission is hiding this information from the public. It is clearly stated in the Handbook for Presiding Officers, Chapter 20 “Electors deciding Not To Vote”, [http://archive.eci.gov.in/handbook/PRESIDING%20OFFICER.pdf]
If they had an intention to ‘hide’ it would’nt have found its place in the handbook.

24. scan man - February 18, 2007

Magiclens: I don’t necessarily agree that I have an obligation to respond to the comments related to any of MY posts. But I do agree that you have a point. The reason I haven’t commented is because I no longer check this blog’s comments. The last post in this blog (or the first if you went to the blog’s home page) would have told you that. I just happened to come across some comments awaiting moderation when I visited to check something else.
Thanks to all the other readers who have commented above.

25. Sunil Khajuria - February 20, 2007

Nice piece of information. This should be spread to all corners of the country so that the corrupt politicians have something to think of. Amazingly it has not been explained by any political Party, which shows that “Hamam main sub Nange hain”. I certainly believe that if the people of Jammu Province in the state of J&K would have known about this right, they would never have voted to any Political Party after observing the improvement brought by Sh. Jagmohan as Governor in J&K.
Good work, keep on spreading the information.
Jai Hind
Sunil Khajuria

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