Cabinet defers proposal on NRIs' voting rights

For overseas Indians, the Representation of the People Act needs to be amended to include a postal ballot and proxy voting as other ways to cast their votes.

Published: 24th January 2017 04:21 PM  |   Last Updated: 24th January 2017 11:05 PM   |  A+A-

By Express News Service

NEW DELHI: The Union Cabinet is learnt to have deferred a proposal to extend the facility of voting by electronic means and proxy to overseas Indians by amending electoral laws.

Meanwhile, Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi said on Tuesday that holding simultaneous polls to Lok Sabha and state Assemblies will require Constitutional amendment and additional resources.

Government sources said the proposal to amend the Representation of the People Act was part of the Cabinet's agenda which met this morning. But, it was deferred.  The reasons behind deferring the proposal were not immediately known. 

Service personnel, including those serving in the armed forces, have already been extended the facility of receiving their postal ballots through electronic means by amending rules. They already have the option to cast their votes through proxy.  For overseas Indians, the Representation of the People Act needs to be amended to include postal ballot and proxy voting as other ways to cast their votes. 

Data shows that only 10,000 to 12,000 NRIs have voted because they do not want to spend foreign currency to come to the country and vote.  While NRIs and overseas Indians are free to cast their votes in constituencies where they are registered, as per the proposal, they would also be allowed to use the option of proxy, which as of now is only available to service personnel. 

Meanwhile, chief election commissioner Nasim Zaidi on Tuesday said that the Commission's view has already been conveyed to the Law Ministry as well as a parliamentary panel that proposal of holding simultaneous polls requires amendments in the Constitution through a process of "political consensus".

"The Commission, with certain additional resources, can undertake the exercise of (holding) simultaneous elections in future. But there are two pre-conditions.  "One, there should be an amendment in the Constitution through a process of political consensus and we will need some

additional resources in terms of electronic voting machines, etc," Zaidi said.

Zaidi was speaking at the sidelines of a seminar on "Strategies for Empowering Young and Future Voters" organized by the Election Commission of India on the eve of 7th National Voters Day.

Last year, the Election Commission supported the government's idea to hold simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and state assemblies but made it clear that it will cost a lot and the Constitution will have to amended to curtail or extend the term of certain state assemblies.     


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