The government on Monday informed the Supreme Court of its decision to accept the Election Commission's recommendation to allow Non-Resident Indians to vote from overseas through e-postal ballots or proxy voting.
A three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu gave the government eight weeks' time to inform it about further steps to implement the modalities of the EC recommendations.
The government’s decision to allow NRIs to vote could set the stage for expatriates to emerge as a decisive force in the country’s electoral politics.
This decision also, historically, removes an “unreasonable restriction” posed by Section 20(A) of the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act of 2010, requiring overseas electors to be physically present in their constituencies to cast their votes.
Overseas votes could prove significant: NRI petitioner
Based on an October 2014 report prepared by the Election Commission on options for voters overseas, the government informed the Supreme Court on Monday that it has agreed to the Commission’s recommendations to allow NRI to vote via e-postal ballots.
The poll body was acting on the orders of the Supreme Court following two separate petitions filed by V.P Shamsheer, a UAE-based doctor, and Nagender Chindam, chairman of Pravasi Bharat in London.
In a statement on Monday, Mr. Chindam said: “There are 10 million Indian citizens staying abroad, and with 543 Lok Sabha constituencies, this means an astonishing average of 18,000 votes per constituency may get polled from abroad. These additional votes, if polled, will obviously play a crucial role in state and general elections.”
Earlier, appearing for the government, Additional Solicitor-General P.S. Narasimha, said in the court: “I would like to inform Your Lordships about a positive development. The government has agreed to all the suggestions made by the Election Commission.”
Appearing for the petitioners, Dushyant Dave, agreed that the government need not wait for a statutory amendment, but can straight away issue a notification implementing the change in the voting law.
But Mr. Narasimha intervened, saying that concurrence has to be got from the Ministries of External Affairs, Home, Overseas Indian Affairs, Finance before implementing the decision.
“So even if we go for a non-statutory amendment, it will take some time,” Mr. Narasimha explained in court.
Agreeing that the government would require time to usher in the change, the Bench observed in its written order that the government has accepted the Commission recommendations in “letter and spirit.”