Bill to provide voting rights to NRIs passed

Last Updated: Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - 23:38

New Delhi: Non-resident Indians (NRIs) will
now have a right to vote in elections, with Parliament today
passing the relevant bill, even as government promised to
bring in comprehensive electoral reforms legislation soon.

Replying to a debate on the Representation of People
(Amendment) Bill, 2010 to allow NRIs to exercise their
franchise in Indian elections, Law Minister M Veerappa Moily
said the government would hold a national consultation on
comprehensive electoral reforms in two to three months.

Rajya Sabha had passed the bill yesterday.

"The Ministry is making all round efforts for
comprehensive electoral reforms and we want to hold a national
consultation on it in two to three months time," Moily said,
responding to the demand for complete electoral reforms from
members.

He said the Election Commission had in its report on
electoral reforms made 22 recommendations of which six had
already been implemented.

The rest of the recommendations, he said, were currently
being examined by a department-related Parliamentary Standing
Committee and it would be taken up for implementation later.

Moily said the House had no "dispute" over the need for
providing voting rights to NRIs, but members had views on the
modalities for allowing that right, which would be addressed
separately.

Describing the current amendment to the law as
long-awaited, he said the current bill aimed to provide rights
to those Indians, who had gone abroad for employment or
education but have not obtained citizenship of the country
they were residing now, to get registered in the electoral
rolls and vote in elections to legislatures and Parliament.

Noting that 25 million Indians living broad were not able
to participate in elections to the country`s legislative
bodies, he said 25 nations globally had accorded such a right
to its citizens living away from home country and that this
right would not be unique for India.

Responding to members` queries on the bill, Moily said
internet voting was one option that the government would
consider in the future once technical expertise and
infrastructure was in place within the country, adding that
such a facility was yet to be introduced in India.

"Let us look forward to that day," he said, supporting
the suggestion made by members.

He said NRIs would be allowed to register as voters in the
constituency from where they had obtained their passports "to
avoid multiplicity of registering in voters list."

The Minister supported the option of registering in any
constituency for NRIs irrespective of their passport address,
but that issue would be resolved after finding a way to avoid
"multiplicity" of registration.

On the coverage of the entire voting population under the
Electors Photo Identity Card (EPIC), he said that would have
been the "ideal state" and that the government would make all
efforts towards that.

Earlier, participating in the debate, Uday Singh (BJP)
said while the Election Commission had made comprehensive
suggestions for electoral reforms, the government had chosen
selectively those that suited them for implementation.

He also appealed to the Minister not to link registration
in voters list to the passport address and allow their names
to be included in electoral rolls in any constituency.

Singh wanted the Unique Identity Card to be used voters
identity and citizenship card.

P T Thomas (Cong) wanted the Minister to clarify if NRIs
would be allowed to contest polls. But the Minister had
already clarified in the Rajya Sabha that it would not be
permitted.

T K S Elangovan (DMK) wanted to know if the election
officials would have powers to delete names of NRIs from
voters list if they changed their passport address and if
punitive action would be taken against them if they did so
arbitrarily.

B Mahtab (BJD) said it would be impossible for the NRIs to
spend lakhs of rupees to visit India only to vote in elections
and suggested that some other mode of voting should be allowed
for them.

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - 23:38

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