Considering ways to facilitate NRIs to cast vote remotely, Centre tells SC

The court asked Attorney-General R. Venkataramani whether the government was considering the option of digital voting.

Updated - November 01, 2022 10:08 pm IST

Published - November 01, 2022 09:24 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Photo used for illustration purpose only.

Photo used for illustration purpose only. | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Union government on November 1, 2022 in the Supreme Court said it was considering ways to facilitate non-resident Indians (NRI), especially migrant labourers, to cast their votes remotely while ensuring the integrity of the electoral process.

A Bench led by Chief Justice U.U. Lalit was hearing several petitions, including one filed by V.P. Shamsheer, a UAE-based doctor represented by advocate Haris Beeran, to allow NRIs to vote through postal ballots.

Initially, the Bench said making the postal ballot facility available to soldiers serving in far-flung areas across the country was different from affording the same facility to someone who had chosen to reside abroad. The court, however, acknowledged that migrant labourers would often find it beyond their limited means to fly in just to cast their vote.

Allowing NRIs to vote from abroad may see expatriates — a bulk of whom are migrant labourers, mostly from Kerala, Tamil Nadu and northern parts of the country — emerge as a decisive force in the country’s electoral politics.

The court noted that the government was aware of the issue and had even introduced a Bill to amend the Representation of the People Act to allow overseas Indians to vote by proxy. The Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill had however lapsed with the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha.

The court asked Attorney-General R. Venkataramani whether the government was considering the option of digital voting.

The Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill of 2017 had proposed the removal of an “unreasonable restriction” posed by Section 20A of the Representation of the People Act requiring overseas electors to be physically present in their electoral constituencies to cast their votes.

The efforts to give remote voting rights to NRIs had also seen the Election Commission prepare a report titled ‘Exploring Feasibility of Alternative Options for Voting by Overseas Electors’ and present it in the top court. The poll body said NRI voters could be empowered better by amending the law.

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