Section 49-O

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Whither Law and Order: Another IPS officer attacked in MP

Published March 9, 2012 by vishalvkale

Another IPS officer attacked in MP – The Times of India:

‘via Blog this’

Circa 2007

It is truly amazing how the simplest of experiences leads one to a train of thoughts transcending a multitude of subject-domains, as happened to me yesterday night. The event in itself was mundane, were it not for the extenuating circumstances: A motor-bike drive between 2 cities 44 kilometers apart. But what happened on that route has set my mental rollers rolling something fierce! I would like to enumerate these diverse thoughts, and justify my connection to and rating of the above topic. 
The time was 9:15 PM at night when I left Bhilai for home, 44 kms away on NH-6 towards Nagpur. This is usually a very safe track, with hardly a policeman or checkpoint visible along the way. I have made this drive on bike as well as by taxi several times at night, but yesterday was different, in that the entire last 24 kms were policed – and very heavily policed at that! I noticed around 4 major checkpoints along the way. At each point, I naturally stopped, but to my amazement, was informed at all except one– exteremely politely: “Aap Jaayiye”. The entire stoppage at each point was not exceeding 10 – 15 seconds at the most – no hassling, nothing! The 4th point was rude, very rude. It was that, and one other observation, that has set my mind racing. 
The police and the babus are known to be rude. Rude? This wasn’t my experience in 75% places. In fact, they were quite gentle. Furthermore, no senior officer was in sight, so it cant have been that they were behaving for brownie points! Secondly, there was a complete absence of visible gun-men or gun-toting policemen at any place. Consider this: you are driving a bike on a highway on which all vehicles except 2-wheelers have been halted. It is nearly 10 at night, pitch dark, and you are the only vehicle on the road… 
Had I noted a gun anywhere, my reactions would have been fear, for between checkpoints, there was no traffic!  But, as it happened, I traversed the distance safely and without any untoward worries. This caused my mind to go back in time to circa 1994 – district Jhabua in MP. We were in the first car in a convoy escorted by the police across a particularly dangerous track of highway, and we were roadblocked by thiefs… the policeman in our car jumped out and started shooting. 
In both cases, I was glad the police was around. Note that point – I was GLAD to have the much-maligned police officer around. When it came to the crunch-  when my life or property was at risk all those years ago, I was glad to have the police around! And it was that realisation that came as a jolt to me yesterday. 

(The above is an extract from my previous blog on mouthshut written in 2007)
Circa 2012

When the apparatus of the police itself seems to be targeted and vulnerable, what would happen to the morale of the people? To the sense of security and safety? In both the case above, I was thankful for the presence of the police, who lent me a feeling of safety and security. I was able to carry on and complete my task because of the police… and that is precisely why they are so central to a society. 
It may seem far-fetched to equate 2 incidents with a breakdown of law and order, but remember: it wont take long for 2 incidents to reach 20 – and then 200 and so on… then what would be the difference between MP and Bihar? Or between India and Palistan or Afghanistan? Whatever be the reason behind the incidents (there is suspicion of accident, of deliberation, of…. ), it is suspected that a nexus is behind it – probably a politician – criminal – law nexus behind the mining. It is difficult to state with certainty, but this is a commonly stated suspicion. Several instances of these have also been brought to the public attention over a period of time. We citizens have to make but one contribution for sure-fire long term success: use our vote responsibly. Either that – or Section 49-O of the constitution:

Section 49-O is a section coming under the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961. It has nothing to do with the Constitution of India. It reads as follows:

“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 49-L, 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 is only a provision for abstaining from voting or at the best negative voting. It does not provide for cancellation of polling if the 49-0 votes are more than the candidate’s majority or provide that the candidature of the contestants will be removed and they cannot contest the re-polling, since people had already expressed their decision on them.

In fact in the PROPOSED ELECTORAL REFORMS by the Election Commission of India, which was forwarded to the Prime Minister of India on 05/07/2004, the following reform was proposed;


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 proviso 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 .None 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).

(A petition by the People.s Union for Civil Liberties seeking such a provision filed at the time of the recent general elections is pending before the Hon’ble Supreme Court)”

This, combind with the right to recall as demanded with Team IAC, can indeed be a powerful lever on the political class of India. For there is only one thing that the politician is scared about: Loss of power, and the vote. This lever – if used legally and effectively – can indeed by a solution….

Think…. just think. Wake Up, India!