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EC can extend voting rights to NRIs in 3 months if govt gives go-ahead

The decision to allow over 10 million NRIs — of whom 24,348 are registered with the EC — to vote through a postal ballot will offer expatriates a chance to participate in the country’s electoral process without having to be physically present.

india Updated: Jul 03, 2017 17:01 IST
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
An election official during counting of votes for the assembly election in Uttar Pradesh.
An election official during counting of votes for the assembly election in Uttar Pradesh.(AP File Photo)

The Election Commission has informed the Centre that it can pull off the process of introducing voting rights for non-resident Indians (NRI) within three months of the law being introduced.

The decision to allow over 10 million NRIs — of whom 24,348 are registered with the EC — to vote through a postal ballot will offer expatriates a chance to participate in the country’s electoral process without having to be physically present at the polling stations.

If it comes to fruition, NRIs from states such as Kerala, Punjab and Telangana -- which have large populations of NRIs -- will stand to be benefit.

Chief election commissioner (CEC) Nasim Zaidi, who demits office on July 5, told HT that the poll panel is ready to implement the one-way postal ballot system for allowing NRIs to vote, if the government gives the go-ahead.

Read | Interview: Nasim Zaidi says tenure as CEC has been a very positive experience

The one-way postal ballot system involves sending e-ballot papers to the voters, which are retuned by post after the voters have marked their choice. The system was introduced for armed forces personnel and service voters in October last year.

“Voting rights to NRIs is a long term vision and is under evaluation,” Zaidi told HT.

He said the commission has proposed a one-way e-postal ballot system for NRIs, but is awaiting for word from the law ministry.

“We have written to the Law ministry, we are ready and have been saying it, we only need a law. It will be on the similar lines as the one-way postal ballot that was started for the service personnel. The moment we have the law we will be ready to implement it within three-months” he said.

Read | EC begins drive to register over 30 million young adults as voters

The Centre has told the Supreme Court, where petitions have been filed to allow NRI voters to participate in the electoral exercise, that it is willing to accept the poll panel’s recommendation to allow NRIs to vote through e-postal ballots or proxy voting.

“We have proved that the technology works,” Zaidi said.

The proposal can only be implemented after Parliament amends the Representation of the People Act and the Conduct of Election Rules. The CEC said the proposal to allow voting rights for domestic migrants, is also pending.

“A committee report (on the issue) has also been given, the government has to take a call,” the CEC said. After amendments were made to the RP Act to make provisions for NRIs, the EC undertook an awareness campaign last year to familiarise expatriates with their voting rights.