A longstanding wish of millions of NRIs for voting rights in India has come true with the Centre issuing a notification to this effect to enable them to exercise their franchise.
Parliament had in the monsoon session passed the Representation of People (Amendment) Bill, 2010 to allow NRIs to vote in Indian elections and now government has issued a gazette notification in this regard.
“Gazette notification has been issued giving voting rights to Non-Resident Indians,” Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi told the Lok Sabha.
An estimated 11 million NRIs are living in various countries across the world.
However, the person will be able to exercise the franchise only if he or she is present in the constituency on the polling day.
Mr. Ravi said NRIs “who have not acquired citizenship of any other country and are living abroad owing to employment, education or otherwise, are now eligible to register their names in the electoral rolls” in their places as mentioned in their passport.
He said the Election Commission is likely to soon finalise the rules and regulations prescribing modalities for entry of names of NRIs in electoral rolls.
The government had decided to allow NRIs to participate in the democratic process to further boost the two-way engagement.
As per the existing rules, an NRI’s name gets deleted from the voters’ list if he or she stays outside the country for more than six months at a stretch.
The new law will allow an Indian citizen residing abroad to enrol in voter’s list and exercise his franchise even if he or she remained away from place of residence in India for more than six months owing to employment, education or otherwise.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, addressing the Pravasi Bhartiya Divas earlier this year, had indicated that Indian passport holders living abroad could get voting rights by the time of next Lok Sabha elections in 2014.