The truth about 49-O: valid but not effective.

By | December 3, 2008

In the last couple of days we have witnessed the most shameful phase of the Indian politics. At one hand we have irresponsible and insensitive government who has been ineffective in securing us from the terror attacks, and on the other, the opposition is busy taking the maximum advantage of the situation securing their vote banks. No one is bothered to work in the interest of the nation and help recovering from the terrible phase. There is a lot of anger and frustration against the politicians who just look for an opportunity to encash their votes and forget their responsibilities later. People are confused and have lost faith in the current political system.


With all this happening around, there has been a lot of buzz about choosing the right candidates, election process and the 49-O rule. So what is the 49-O rule?

There is a rule under section 49-O in the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, which allows the voters to ‘not vote’ for any of the candidates and get his decision registered. The rule officially states –

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.

There are a lot of emails doing rounds suggesting that this can be used as a tool against the corrupt politicians. These mails suggest that in case the number of votes recorded under section 49-O is found to be greater than the maximum number of votes polled in favor of any of the candidates, the poll is considered null and void and a re-poll is held. These mails also state that the current candidates will be barred from re-contesting.

I did some research about this and tried to find out the truth consulting all possible sources. In my attempt to find out more about this, I called up Election Commissioner’s Office and spoke with Mr. C.P. Sharma who is PPS to Mr. Navin Chawla (Election Commissioner). Mr Sharma told me that this rule is valid, anyone can exercise it. One has to go to the polling booth, get their name marked, get their finger marked and infrom the Polling officer on duty about the decision of not voting. The Polling Officer might ask you to give a written undertaking stating the same. Through this process, the vote would be registered as ‘no-vote’ and will be counted under the same head at the time of final counting. However, irrespective of the number of such votes, the results would be declared and one of the candidates would be elected. There is no provision of a re-poll or banning the candidates to appear in any of the further elections.

49-O is a good way to secure your vote against a misuse. But this, by no means is a way to fight against the corruption or politicians. If you do not appear for voting, there is a possible chance of someone else casting a vote in your name and with the current state of affairs this happens quite often than not. Hence, it would be better to go for a ‘no-vote’ rather than sitting at home, allowing the misuse.

However, ‘not voting’ will not make a real difference in the current  scenario. What we really need is a fresh batch of young politicians, who care for the cause of nation and can lead us from the front. However, till that happens, we will have to keep the faith and choose the better off the worst. You should try and make an informed decision. Check the previous track record of the candidates, find out what have they done till date, checkout their educational qualifications, their criminal history and based on these facts choose who you feel can be a better option. Only If you are unable to make up your mind and have got convinced that none of the candidates is better than the other, use 49-O.

Whatever the case may be, please ensure that you go out and register your vote… each vote makes a difference.

To get more information about the elections and electoral process please visit

Image Source: flickr


vimoh on December 3, 2008 at 9:24 pm.

Good find.

Whhat you found may be correct, it still hasn’t been used. If a city or a small constituency did make use of this provision, sooner or later we will catch the EC’s attention and in due course of time, a move can be made to enforce no-votes.

meera sahib on December 10, 2009 at 10:41 am.

No use …unless such option is included in the EVMs rather than going for 17-A form which will show ur identity to those politicians and ur at risk.

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