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Election Commission for proxy voting, e-ballots for NRIs, but not polling at embassies

Election Commission for proxy voting, e-ballots for NRIs, but not polling at embassies

New Delhi: The Election Commission favours proxy voting and e-ballot for NRIs but not voting in Indian embassies abroad.

It says the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) does not favour voting in missions abroad.

"We are not opposed to anything. But will do anything that can be feasible," Chief Election Commissioner V S Sampath told PTI.

He said a committee comprising officials from the EC, Law Ministry and the MEA had gathered opinions from all sections before submitting a report to the apex court.

Sampath said any move to allow NRIs use proxy voting on the lines of defence personnel and e-ballot facility will require changes in the law. "It will require a legislative framework. The lawmakers will have to apply their mind," he said.

He said if the proposal sails through, then NRIs will be sent ballot papers electronically and they will have to return it to poll authorities "physically".

Explaining the feasibility aspect in not allowing NRIs to vote at embassies, he said the MEA was of the view that it will be difficult to allow such an exercise because, in some countries, the NRI population could be equal to the local populace and it will be difficult to hold such an exercise at the embassy.

Another problem is that some of the countries may not be democracies and they may object to NRIs exercising their democratic rights.

Asked how EC would check misuse of proxy voting, he said let the facility first begin for NRIs.

"The committee is of the view that e-postal ballot, where blank postal ballot is transferred electronically to NRIs and returned by post, can be employed after validation of the process and pilot implementation in one or two constituencies and then be scaled up for parliamentary elections if found feasible, practicable and meeting the objectives of free and fair elections," said the report given to the SC.

The 50-page report was prepared by a 12-member committee led by Vinod Zutshi, Deputy Election Commissioner, for 'Exploring Feasibility of Alternative Options for Voting by Overseas Electors'.

The report is the result of a public interest litigation filed in SC against the "inherent inequality" created by Section 20(A) of the Representation of the Peoples (RP) Act which insists on the physical presence of an NRI in his local constituency at the time of voting.

According to EC website, after enrolment, an overseas elector will be able to cast his or her vote in an election in the constituency, in person, at the polling station provided for the part where he is registered as an overseas elector.

According to the provisions of the RP Act, a person who is a citizen of India and who has not acquired the citizenship of any other country and is otherwise eligible to be registered as a voter and who is absent from his place of ordinary residence in India owing to employment, education or otherwise is eligible to be registered as a voter in the constituency in which his place of residence in India, as mentioned in his passport, is located.

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