Working with ministries to address NRIs’ demand for postal voting: EC
The Election Commission (EC) is working with the ministries of law and external affairs to address the long-standing non-resident Indians (NRIs) demand for postal voting rights, the poll watchdog said on Monday.
The statement came after chief election commissioner Sunil Arora met UAE-based entrepreneur Shamsheer Vayalil, who has filed a plea in the Supreme Court for the rights.
A person aware of the matter said Vayalil met Arora amid reports that the government planned to implement postal voting rights for NRIs in non-Gulf countries in the first phase. “If the federal government and EC rule in favour of the demand raised by him, then NRIs in the Gulf countries will also be able to vote in the upcoming elections in Kerala, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Assam, and Puducherry,” said the person on condition of anonymity.
An estimated 1.8 million people from Kerala alone work in West Asia.
Vayalil said the EC acknowledged and appreciated the legal battle demanding the rights in which he has been involved. “The EC has assured that the issue of NRI voting rights is under the consideration of the EC and the government.”
The government is planning to implement postal voting on a pilot basis for NRIs in the US, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Australia, Germany, France and South Africa.
A government functionary said the external affairs ministry supports the idea of allowing the postal balloting but the decision rests with the poll watchdog.
NRIs have been pushing for allowing them to vote via Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System saying they are denied the right to vote unless they travel to their constituencies.
The Supreme Court last week issued notices to the Centre and the EC on the plea for allowing postal voting and e-voting for NRIs and other migrants.
Armed forces personnel, those involved in essential services, people with physical disabilities, voters aged above 80, and Covid-19 patients are allowed postal voting.
There are 450 million NRIs and other migrants as per the 2011 census. But just about 10,00,00 Indians living abroad are registered as voters. NRIs say their fundamental rights to work and live in places of their choice are impinged upon by the condition of voting physically in their constituencies.
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