The Supreme Court has done well to enable e-voting for NRIs within eight weeks after the Centre told it that it had accepted the recommendation of the EC report recommending e-ballot for Indian passport holders abroad and that it would have the process in place after amending the laws. The government must now implement it in mission mode. For years, NRIs were deprived of voting rights as their names were removed from the voters’ list if they had been out of the country for more than six months at a stretch. In 2010, the government allowed them voting rights, but the rules required them to be present in their constituencies on the day of voting.
There are an estimated 11 million NRIs across the world and there is nothing that will bond them with their country of origin as the exercise of the right to vote. It is well known that despite living in distant lands, the overseas Indians not only retain their love for the country, but also take a lively interest in the political, social and cultural affairs of India. This proximity has been enhanced by the availability of Indian television channels abroad which enables them to follow the events in their country like any ordinary Indian. Besides, the radio has been always there and now there is also the internet.
When the Indians living abroad acquire the right to vote regularly, they can be expected to display mature judgment in the choice of candidates and parties. E-voting can perhaps be seen as an extension of the postal ballot. With the advancement of technology, it is necessary for innovations in the field of elections. Just as the electronic voting machine has replaced the earlier paper ballots, e-voting will represent another step into the 21st century. Arguably, it can be gradually extended with the necessary checks to those Indians who are unable to cast their votes because of job-related engagements in other towns on polling day.