NRI Voting Rights: Bill To Come Up In Rajya Sabha In Upcoming Section, Centre Tells SC
The Centre on Friday informed the Supreme Court that a bill to amend electoral law to allow NRIs to vote through postal or e-ballots has been passed by Lok Sabha and is likely to come up in Rajya Sabha in the upcoming Winter Session.
The government told this to a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta which was hearing a batch of petitions filed by Nagender Chindam, chairman of London-based Pravasi Bharat organisation, and other Non Resident Indians (NRIs) including Shamsheer V P.
The petitions have said that 114 countries, including 20 Asian nations, have adopted external voting, which could be held by setting up polling booths at diplomatic missions or through postal, proxy or electronic voting.
Additional Solicitor General A N S Nadkarni, appearing for the Centre, told the bench that the bill was likely to be taken up in the Rajya Sabha in the Winter Session, which is to commence from December 11.
The bench said it would hear the matter in last week of January.
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 (RP) Act and a Bill was needed to be introduced in Parliament to amend the Act itself to grant the voting rights.
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, taking note of the fact that the Centre and Election Commission of India (ECI) were agreeable to the report of a panel that NRIs might be allowed to vote.
The poll panel had earlier said the move to allow NRIs to use proxy voting on the lines of defence personnel and e-ballot facility would require changes either in the RP Act or in the rules made under the Act.
The Centre had said in principle, it was agreeable to the recommendations made in the report prepared by a 12-member committee to explore the feasibility of alternative options for voting by overseas electors.
One of the petitioners had told the court that NRIs could be given the right to vote by making changes in the rules only and there was no need to amend the provisions of the RP Act.