Proxy Voting Rights to Non-Resident Indians

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The Union Government has approved changes in electoral laws to permit Non-Resident Indians to cast their vote in assembly and Lok Sabha elections from overseas.

Section 20A of the Representation of the peoples (Amendment) Act, 2010 requires the presence of the registered NRI voter to cast his vote at the polling station in his constituency, does not permit utilization of external voting methods which are currently in practice across the world.

The amended Representation of the People Act will allow nearly 16 million NRIs to exercise the right by appointing a proxy from their constituency to cast the vote.

If this proposal is passed then NRIs will be able to exercise their voting rights through “proxy”. Currently, only Service Personnel are permitted to vote through proxy.

However, the facility for NRIs will not be the same as that enjoyed by service personnel. For instance, voters in the armed forces can nominate their relatives as permanent proxy to vote on their behalf. But the Union Cabinet’s approval for proxy voting by NRIs carries a caveat: they cannot nominate one proxy for all polls.

Overseas electors will have to appoint a nominee afresh for each election — one person can act as proxy for only one overseas voter.

Currently, voters residing abroad can only cast their votes in their respective constituencies. Barely anyone has travelled to the country to exercise his or her franchise.

The government was earlier considering granting them postal voting rights similar to voters in the armed forces, who can receive ballot papers electronically and print them. However, the government felt this procedure will be too cumbersome to implement in case of NRIs.

The issue of proxy voting for NRIs came up in a public interest litigation in the Supreme Court in 2014.

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