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  India   All India  11 Nov 2017  Government plans bill to allow 2.5 crore NRIs to vote

Government plans bill to allow 2.5 crore NRIs to vote

THE ASIAN AGE. | J VENKATESAN
Published : Nov 11, 2017, 1:58 am IST
Updated : Nov 11, 2017, 6:09 am IST

The EC had told the Centre that it can initiate the process of granting voting rights to NRIs within three months of the amendment to law.

The non-resident Indians (NRIs), at present, have no voting rights.
 The non-resident Indians (NRIs), at present, have no voting rights.

New Delhi: In a far-reaching decision that will impact 2.5 crore NRIs, and to some extent the outcome of the 2019 elections, the government has decided to give them right to vote in their motherland through proxy or an e-postal ballot system by amending the law.

The non-resident Indians (NRIs), at present, have no voting rights. Proxy voting rights will allow them to authorise a nominee in their constituency to cast the vote on their behalf. At present, only defence personnel are allowed to vote through a nominee or postal ballot.

The new provision is likely to include into the country’s voting exercise new electors numbering more than the population of Delhi (1.8 crore) or one-third of the population Gujarat (6.5 crore).

The Centre informed the Supreme Court on Friday that based on the Election Commission’s suggestions a bill will be introduced in Parliament for paving the way for NRIs to cast their vote in elections through their nominees residing in their constituency in India.

Making voting possible for NRIs requires an amendment to the Representation of the People Act, which the government will table in the upcoming Winter Session, attorney general K.K. Venugopal said.

A bench, headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, was hearing separate petitions by NRI groups which have been pending for three years. In July, the apex court had asked the Centre to submit a plan on how it intends to let NRIs vote in elections, after which the Cabinet cleared a proposal on the matter, to be taken forward through an amendment.

According to the EC, under the e-ballot procedure the NRI wishing to vote will have to send an application either electronically or physically to the returning officer six months before the expiry of the term of the House for which the elections are scheduled to be held.

The Returning Officer (RO) may verify the particulars of the person and at the time of election and, on satisfaction, electronically send the postal ballot which the NRI elector can access through a password allotted to him.

The elector will need to download the postal ballot paper, cast the vote and post it back to the RO after getting the declaration attested, the EC said.

The EC had told the Centre that it can initiate the process of granting voting rights to NRIs within three months of the amendment to law.

Counsel for the Centre sought from the bench, which also included Justices A.M. Kanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrchud, an adjournment for six months on the ground that the bill will be tabled in the Winter Session of Parliament. However, the bench deferred the hearing by 12 weeks.

The petitioners had submitted that crores of people would be entitled to cast their vote if NRIs were allowed to vote from overseas. It was argued that 114 countries, including 20 Asian countries, had adopted external voting.

The EC said that the e-postal ballot system has almost no risk of manipulation, rigging or violation of secrecy.

Initially, the system could be tried in “one or two constituencies in elections to the legislative Assemblies”, it said.

The system could later be “scaled up to more Assembly elections and finally Parliamentary elections if found feasible, practicable and meeting the objectives of free and fair elections”, the EC said.

The poll panel said that it examined several suggestions to enable NRIs to cast their vote and rejected the idea of allowing them to cast their votes at diplomatic missions abroad.

It said that Internet voting is also not a feasible option until appropriate technology/information technology applications are available and all other vulnerabilities are addressed.

Tags: non-resident indians, vote, supreme court, election commission
Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi