What has happened?
- NRIs, who under the current election laws must cast their vote in person at their respective constituencies in India, may soon get to vote remotely in an Indian election, from their country of residence.
- The Election Commission, in a proposal sent to the law ministry, has suggested that NRIs be allowed to vote through electronically-transmitted postal ballot system (ETPBS).
- The EC told the law ministry last week that it is “technically and administratively ready” to extend the Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System (ETPBS),
- To NRI voters for assembly elections in Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry – all of which are scheduled for the next year.
- The ETPBS is currently only available to service voters.
- Under the system, the postal ballot is dispatched electronically and returned via ordinary mail.
- To approve the facility to overseas voters, the government merely needs to amend the Conduct of Election Rules 1961.
- It would not require parliament’s nod to okay the move.
How many NRI voters?
- There are an estimated 1 crore Indians who live abroad,
- Of whom about 60 lakh could be of eligible voting age.
How the process will work?
- The EC’s proposal says any NRI interested in voting via postal ballot,
- Will have to inform the returning officer (RO) at least five days after the notification of the election.
- “On receiving such information, the RO will dispatch the ballot paper electronically.
- The NRI voters will mark their preference on the ballot printouts and
- Send it back along with a declaration attested by an officer appointed by the diplomatic or consular representative of India in the country where the NRI is resident.”
- It is not yet clear if the voter will have to send the ballot paper on their own through ordinary post or
- Drop it off at an Indian Embassy.
Why EC wants to extend the facility to NRI?
- The EC said that Section 62 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 envisages,
- The right to vote for every citizen registered in the electoral roll who is not subject to disqualification for voting.
- Plus, the move “will go a long way” in “further boosting the image of the country internationally,” it observed.
But what about Migrants?
- In the 2019 general elections, over 29 crore Indians who were eligible to vote did not vote.
- These missing voters constituted over a third of the registered voters.
- For a country of 4 crore migrants (2011 Census) of which about 28 crore would be eligible to vote, expecting all voters to move cities for a day just to vote is asking for too much.
- Recently, five civil rights groups submitted a memorandum to the EC,
- Urging it to grant migrant labourers the right to cast their vote through postal ballots.
- Previously, in 2014 that the EC received several requests, including from Rajya Sabha MP and industrialist Naveen Jindal to allow NRIs to vote.
- The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had expressed strong reservations on postal ballot voting for NRIs during consultations with the EC,
- Saying diplomatic missions did not have the logistical wherewithal to handle “attestation for a large number of overseas electors”.
- The ministry said that the permission of the host country may be required for organising such an activity, which maybe difficult in non-democratic countries.
- After the EC did not receive positive feedback during its consultations,
- The panel wrote to the government proposing proxy voting for NRIs – where the voter could appoint someone to vote on their behalf.
- In 2018, the government moved to grant proxy voting rights to overseas electors through an amendment to the Representation of the People Act 1951.
- Though the Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha, it was pending before the Rajya Sabha when it lapsedwith the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha.
- The recent EC’s proposal to the law ministry has sought only postal voting rights for NRIs,
- Not proxy voting.
- Granting postal ballot rights to every citizen including NRIs & Migrants,
- Will be the “most effective solution to the issues of political exclusion faced by migrant labourers.
Q) Which of the following statements regarding NRI & OCI is correct?
- Both are Indian citizen but OCI doesn’t have voting rights.
- A person is considered NRI if He/She is not in India for 1 or more year.
- 1 only
- 2 only
- Both 1 & 2
- None of the above