Bombay HC Dismisses Petition Seeking Appointment Of Brand Ambassador For NOTA Awareness

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Following a review of the comprehensive measures undertaken by the Election Commission and the State Election Commission, the bench of Justice Ravindra V. Ghuge and Justice R. M. Joshi concluded that adequate steps were taken to inform voters about NOTA

The Bombay High Court, Aurangabad Bench, has recently dismissed a public interest litigation seeking directions to the Election Commission of India (ECI) for the appointment of a brand ambassador to inform the general public about the NOTA (None of the Above) option. 

The petitioner referred to a court order dated October 14, 2019, which underscored the importance of public awareness regarding NOTA and recognized the efforts made by the State Election Commission in this regard.

The bench held, “Having considered the above factors and the steps taken by the Election Commission of India and the State Election Commission, and the fact that this Petitioner had filed an identical Petition earlier, this PIL Petition is dismissed”.

The court observed that the State Election had implemented various initiatives during subsequent elections to raise awareness about NOTA. These initiatives encompassed ensuring the visibility and provision of the NOTA option on ballot papers, maintaining its font size parity with candidates' names, and elucidating the counting process.

Court noted, “This pamphlet is actually a pictorial guide to the voters in order to make them aware of their rights and duties. It begins with making the voter aware of, (a) the process of registration online as well as off line, (b) verification of details, (c) enrollment as a new voter, (d) method of searching the name in the voters’ list, etc. So also, the voter is made aware that a holiday is declared on the polling day to facilitate casting of vote. A catchy statement is also set out as “It is not a holiday, it is a voting day”.

Additionally, it was noted that the Election Commission of India had distributed a brochure titled "Chunav Ka Parv, Desh Ka Garv, Lok Sabha Election 2024" to provide voter guidance.

Standing Counsel Alok Sharma representing the ECI informed the court about initiatives by the CEO's office in Maharashtra to raise NOTA awareness, including awareness programs, literacy programs, and plans for newspaper advertisements closer to elections.

The brochure, marked as 'X' for identification, aims to educate voters about the voting process, including the option of choosing NOTA on EVMs. It also covers voter registration procedures, checking the voter list, and emphasizes the importance of voting, the court noted referring to the brochure presented by Standing Counsel Alok Sharma representing ECI

It further pointed out, “The pamphlet contains information to educate a voter beginning with a voter standing in a queue to approach the Polling Officer who checks his name in the voters’ list by verifying it with the ID proof, followed by the Polling Officer marking the finger nail of the voter with an indelible ink and giving him a slip after taking his signature”.

The bench stated, “We find that the Election Commission has already come out with a manual on Systematic Voters Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP), which was published in July 2020. The SVEEP Strategy 2022-2025 (4) was also published. A provision for budget allocation was also made in SVEEP Strategy 2022-2025”. 

Considering the measures taken by both the ECI and the State Election Commission, the court dismissed the petition.

Case Title: Suhas Manohar Wankhede vs Election Commission of India & other