Legal Pad

Unraveling a ‘Secular’ Hoax

“Section 49-O” of the Constitution of India!


(With valuable inputs from Somu Rao, Goa Science Forum)

One of the most nauseating scenes Indians witnessed after the horrific Mumbai terror attack on November 26 was the parade of India’s supposedly apolitical class in front of every other 24/7 television channels, airing their illiterate opinions on politics and governance. Some wanted the country to ‘nuke’ Pakistan. Some others wanted presidents’ rule – American style! Yet another group wanted to abolish politics in the country altogether and the army to rule the country! They paraded as if – as N.Ram, editor-in-chief of The Hindu group of publications pointed out in a lecture given at a meeting recently organized by Samudaya, a progressive theater group based in Bangalore, – these reactionary forces would govern the country with their placards!

There is another group of people who are not depoliticized or apolitical, but nevertheless got fed up with the lumpen and criminal politics we have often experienced in this country for decades. Feeling powerless to do anything and desperate, they get hold of any straw – real or imaginary – that gives them some kind of a consolation. A message that is being passed around through emails since the Mumbai terror attack is a clear example of this phenomenon.

I reproduce below the email message I received recently from one reliable contact. Since he is not the author of the message, I leave out the name of the individual. Here is the message:

Hi All…….

I Vote Nobody!!!!!!!!!

Did you know that there is a system in our constitution, as per the 1969 act, in section “49-O” that a person can go to the polling booth, confirm his identity, get his finger marked and convey the presiding election officer that he doesn’t want to vote anyone!

Yes such a feature is available, but obviously these seemingly notorious leaders have never disclosed it. This is called “49-O”.

Why should you go and say “I VOTE NOBODY”… because, in a ward, if a candidate wins, say by 123 votes, and that particular ward has received “49-O” votes more than 123, then that polling will be cancelled and will have to be re-polled. Not only that, but the candidature of the contestants will be removed and they cannot contest the re-polling, since people had already expressed their decision on them. This would bring fear into parties and hence look for genuine candidates for their parties for election. This would change the way; of our whole political system… it is seemingly surprising why the election commission has not revealed such a feature to the public….

Please spread this news to as many as you know… Seems to be a wonderful weapon against corrupt parties in India … show your power, expressing your desire not to vote for anybody, is even more powerful than voting… so don’t miss your chance. So either vote, or vote not to vote (vote 49-O) and pass this info on…

Use your voting right for a better INDIA.

Please forward this to all the friends and let them know!!!

Isn’t a wonderful instrument to punish our untrustworthy politicians? Hold your answer! Such a section does not exist in our Constitution!

First, The Constitution of India does not have “Sections”, but it has Preamble, Parts, Articles, Chapters, Schedules, and Appendices. In the Constitution, there is an Article 49 (nothing called “49-O”), which has nothing at all to do with elections. The Article 49 of the Constitution is about “Protection of monuments and places and objects of national importance”, which is reproduced below:

49. It shall be the obligation of the State to protect every monument or place or object of artistic or historic interest, 2[declared by or under law made by Parliament] to be of national importance, from spoliation, disfigurement, destruction, removal, disposal or export, as the case may be.

Where, then, is this “49-O”? Though the Constitution of India does not have a “Section 49-O”, The Conduct of Election Rules – 1961 has a rule 49-O under Part IV (Voting in Parliamentary and Assembly Constituenceis). The relevant rule is reproduced below:

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.

(The entire text of The Conduct of Election Rules – 1961 can be found at:

Now compare this rule 49-O with what is claimed in the email message. As per the message,

  • If the number of electors who have decided not to vote is more than the winning margin of candidate in “a ward”, the election will be cancelled and a re-poll will be conducted.
  • In the re-poll, the candidates who have already contested and lost the election “will be removed and they cannot contest the re-polling, since people had already expressed their decision on them”!

Does the rule 49-O of The Conduct of Election Rules – 1961 say anything of those sorts? Not at all!

As Somu (Goa Science Forum) points out “many votes are cast for ‘none of the above’. Eventually the winner will be whoever among the existing candidates secures the most number of votes. One can use the 49-O option to make a statement but not to call for a re-election”.

Though I came across this hoax-mail only very recently (post-Mumbai terror attack), Somu informs me that it has been doing the rounds for many years. A google search confirms that it is so. This email is a hoax perpetrated upon the unsuspecting public who generally do not take the pain to go through the entire Constitution and the Election Rules to verify for themselves the correctness of a claim made in a mail received from a reliable friend.

(Thanks to Somu Rao who enlightened me about this hoax in the nick of time.)

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