Proxy or e-ballot voting by NRIs in Indian elections

Published on May 23, 2015 12:50:50 PM

A legal framework to amend electoral laws to allow overseas Indians to use proxy voting and e-ballot facility, has been forwarded by an Election Commission (EC) expert committee to the Law Ministry in Delhi.

NRIs would also be allowed to use the option of using proxy, which is only available to service personnel, as per the proposal. Currently, NRIs are free to cast their votes in constituencies they are registered.

Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi on May 20 told in an interview, "We have framed the law and it is with the Law Ministry. We understand it is under active consideration. Which means it is in fairly advanced (stage)".

The option to use postal ballot delivered to overseas Indians by electronic means to cast their vote, would require current laws governing right to vote to be amended.

"From the day the nomination process ends till the day of the voting we have 14 days. In this we have to print the postal ballot and send it, and the voter has to return it. To cut this time, the committee recommended sending it by electronic means," Zaidi said.

Law Ministry sources said that voters can download the ballot paper with a one-time password, fill it and post it to the election authorities. A senior Law Ministry official further explained about a suggestion that the voter can post the ballot to the nearest Indian mission or consulate. It will be then the duty of the mission to send it to either the MEA in New Delhi or Election Commission through diplomatic bag. The authorities in India can send the ballot to the concerned returning officer.

According to sources, it will be against the principle of 'free and fair election' if overseas voters have to spend money on costly post or courier services for sending their ballot to India.

Section 20 of the Representation of the People Act, 1950 and section 60 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which respectively deal, with definition of 'ordinary citizen' and with ‘special procedure for voting by certain classes of persons’ will require amendments.

A public interest litigation filed in SC against the "inherent inequality" created by Section 20(A) of the Representation of the Peoples (RP) Act insisting on the physical presence of an NRI in his local constituency at the time of voting, resulted in the plan to amend the law.