In a widely anticipated move, the government on Thursday made public the rules allowing an estimated 50 lakh (five million) non-resident Indian citizens living abroad to contest and vote in the Lok Sabha and state assembly elections.
The names of NRIs holding Indian passports will be included in the voters' lists of the locality mentioned as their place of residence in the passport, according to rules framed by the law ministry.
The latest set of rules has put an end to confusion around whether NRIs can vote via the Internet from abroad. "It may be noted that after your enrolment you will be able to cast vote in elections in the constituency, if you are physically present in the polling station with your original passport," stated the ministry.
The Election Commission can now start enrolling the NRI citizens in the voters' list.
The Parliament had cleared an amendment in the Representation of People's Act (1950) in September last year, paving the way for NRIs, who did not give up Indian citizenship, to participate in the elections back home.
"Every overseas elector, who is not otherwise disqualified for registration and wants to be registered on the address mentioned in his passport may make an application to the officer concerned directly or send it by post," the note stated.
In case of the applications to be sent by post, the applicants will have to send their details and a photocopy of their passport containing photographs and visa documents. "All these copies should be duly attested by a competent official of the Indian mission at their destination. If the requirements are not met, the applications will be rejected," says the ministry note.
"The rules follow the bill passed in parliament last year to provide rights to Indians who had gone abroad for employment or education, but had not obtained citizenship of the country where they were residing now," said a senior law ministry official.
UPA-I had introduced the bill in Parliament in 2006, but withdrew it after recommendations of a parliamentary panel, which asked for greater clarity in the election process
PM Manmohan Singh had promised the Indian diaspora that they would be able to participate in the 2014 elections
Number of Indians living abroad — NRIs and Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) — who have acquired citizenships of other countries is around 30 mn.