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MPs favour riders on NRI voting rights

MPs committee opposes giving NRIs right to contest polls for Rashtrapati Bhavan and LS, reports Aloke Tikku.

india Updated: Aug 07, 2006 04:13 IST

It is all right to let Non-Resident Indians vote in elections. But should the law allow them to contest elections for the Rashtrapati Bhavan and Lok Sabha?

No, said a committee of MPs in its report to Parliament last week.

The panel approved an amendment to the Representation of the People Act to enable NRIs living abroad to be registered as voters at their permanent address, but stuck to its stand that going beyond voting rights could lead to rather awkward situations.

For example, an NRI sitting in Japan could contest and win elections to Lok Sabha or the state assembly.

In its present form, the amendment ensures that the NRI would be free to contest for the office of President or Vice President of India.

There are nearly five million Indians working abroad.

"This can lead to an extreme situation also and the other offices may become open for contest for which we need to find an answer," the committee said.

A reflection of how seriously the MPs were taking this potential competition from abroad came out in its report.

The report acknowledged the question that "came to be debated most" during its meetings on the bill to grant them voting rights was the implication of NRIs contesting elections.

The MPs have recommended that the government draft "some additional qualifications" for contesting certain offices so that "extreme contingencies in the future are prevented".

While many nations are reluctant to allow their nationals living abroad to contest polls, there are some — USA, UK, Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy and France — who have no such qualms.