NEW DELHI: NRIs may be able to vote in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The Central government told the Supreme Court on Friday that the Bill to amend the electoral law to allow voting rights to the NRIs will be tabled in the Rajya Sabha in upcoming winter session. The Lok Sabha had already passed it on August 9.
Once the Bill is passed and enacted, over 25 million overseas Indians/NRIs will be able to vote through postal or e-ballots. A division bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta slated the hearing for January 2019 after hearing the submission of Additional Solicitor General ANS Nadkarni. The court was hearing the petitions filed by two NRIs, Shamsheer VP from Kerala and Nagender Chindam, chairman of the UK-based Pravasi Bharat.
The petitions said 114 countries, including 20 in Asia, have adopted external voting, which could be held by setting up polling booths at diplomatic missions or through postal, proxy or electronic voting.
Currently, only defence personnel are permitted to vote through proxy. However, the facility for the NRIs will not be the same as that enjoyed by the services personnel. According to the proposal, the NRI voters will have to appoint a nominee afresh for each election and one person can act as proxy for only one overseas voter.
Due to the high travel cost and time involved, only a few NRIs come to India to cast their votes.
In July last year, Attorney General K K Venugopal had told the court that NRIs could not be allowed to vote by merely changing the rules made under the Representation of People Act and a Bill was needed to be introduced.The court had asked the Centre to decide whether it would amend the electoral law or rules to allow NRIs to vote by postal or e-ballots in the polls in the country. The court took note of the fact that the Centre and the Election Commission were agreeable to the report of a panel that NRIs might be allowed to vote.