Bill to provide voting rights to NRIs passed
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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.


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

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