Post 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, one lesser known rule of 'The Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961', has been doing round in blogosphere and social networking sites and has been a subject of debate. It is the Rule 49-O of 'The Conduct of Election Rules, 1961'-the rule, which as a matter of fact I too was quite unaware of. It was triggered by hoax email that was doing round the web, apparently since past couple of years but which gained momentum post 26/11 Mumbai terror attack.
So what is Rule 49-O of The Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961?
It says that if elector decides not to record his vote, then the elector may do so by notifying the presiding officer and putting signature or thumb impression in Form 17A which exposes the identity of the elector and making them vulnerable to threat and intimidation. It also defeats the purpose of 'secret ballot'.
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.
What is so special about this rule that it became a buzzword and a subject of debate in the web?
The hoax email that did round the web, apparently seems to state that 'if the number of people who invoke the right to 49-O is more than the winning candidates vote count, a re-poll is ordered with something amounting to a permanent ban on the previous candidature'. Having disillusioned with the voting system of the country to elect their representative whereby there was no option other than to choose the candidate which was less unappealing than the others; this gave some sense of power to elector to accept or not-to- accept or to reject the candidates altogether by putting 'Negative/Neutral' Vote. It was felt and hoped that by exercising this option, the wronged system can atleast be corrected. And ever since, people have been debating about the viability of this option.
Can a re-poll be ordered by invoking Rule 49-O?
No, with the present Rule 49-O, there is no option that a re-poll could be ordered if the vote count invoking Rule 49-O is greater than the vote count of winning candidates. In other words, it would be much similar to abstaining from exercising your franchise or to make your vote invalid. 49-o.info has succinct information on Rule 49-O. Go through the explanation of rule 49-O here.
So, not until the rule is amended based on EC recommendations and a clause inserted for re-poll and disqualification of candidature, it would be futile and 'waste' of vote to invoke 'Rule 49-O' except to compromise your identity and expose you to the vulnerability of being intimidated.