Monday, January 12, 2015

Ensure NRIs can e-vote within 8 weeks - SC to Centre

The Supreme Court has directed the central government to enable e-voting by NRIs within eight weeks. 

Hearing a plea filed by Pravasi Bharat chairman Nagender Chindam, the SC bench headed by Chief Justice HL Dattu said that the NRIs must be allowed to e-vote within 8 weeks of elections. 

A committee comprising officials from the EC, law ministry and the ministry of external affairs had taken the opinions from all sections before submitting a report to the apex court last year. 

Any move to allow NRIs to use proxy voting on the lines of defence personnel and e-ballot facility will require changes in the law. 

Under the proposal, NRIs will be sent ballot papers electronically and they will have to return it to poll authorities physically. 

Chief election commissioner VS Sampath had said recently that the MEA was opposed to the idea of allowing NRIs to vote at embassies as it will be difficult to allow such an exercise because, in some countries, the NRI population could be equal to the local populace and it will be difficult to hold such an exercise at the embassy.

The 50-page report was prepared by a 12-member committee led by Vinod Zutshi, deputy election commissioner, for 'exploring feasibility of alternative options for voting by overseas electors'. 

The report is the result of a public interest litigation filed in the Supreme Court against the "inherent inequality" created by Section 20(A) of the Representation of the People (RP) Act which insists on the physical presence of an NRI in his local constituency at the time of voting. 

According to EC website, after enrolment, an overseas elector will be able to cast his or her vote in an election in the constituency, in person, at the polling station provided for the part where he is registered as an overseas elector. 

According to the provisions of the RP Act, a person who is a citizen of India and who has not acquired the citizenship of any other country and is otherwise eligible to be registered as a voter and who is absent from his place of ordinary residence in India owing to employment, education or otherwise is eligible to be registered as a voter in the constituency in which his place of residence in India, as mentioned in his passport, is located. 

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