Voting rights for NRIs run into EC hurdle
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Last Updated: Wednesday, January 05, 2011, 17:50
New Delhi: The Election Commission's insistence on physical verification of millions of NRIs wishing to get voting rights has led to delay in finalising modalities for entry of their names in electoral rolls.

Although Parliament had in the Monsoon Session passed the Representation of People (Amendment) Bill, 2010 to allow NRIs to vote in Indian elections, no consensus could be hammered out by the government and EC on the process to include the names in the voters' list.

"The Election Commission has been insisting that there should be physical verification of the NRIs wanting to get their names enrolled in electoral rolls. But we have opposed the proposal as it would be virtually impossible," top sources in the government said.

Top officials from External Affairs Ministry and Overseas Indian Affairs Ministry had already held several rounds of discussions with the Election Commission.

The MEA has told the EC that it would not be possible for embassies to physically verify the NRIs as in Saudi Arabia alone the number of Indians would be nearly 1.5 million.

Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi said it was up to the EC to finalise the modalities but at the same time the guidelines should be practical.

"The EC has been very positive towards the issue and I hope the commission will be able to finalise the modalities at the earliest," said Ravi.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, addressing the Pravasi Bhartiya Divas earlier this year, had indicated that Indian passport holders living abroad could get voting rights by the time of next Lok Sabha elections in 2014.

Ravi said NRIs, "who have not acquired citizenship of any other country and are living abroad owing to employment, education or otherwise, are eligible to register their names in the electoral rolls" in their places as mentioned in their passport.

An estimated 11 million NRIs are living in various countries across the world and voting rights has been a longstanding demand of the community.

According to the amendment, an NRI will be able to exercise the franchise only if he or she is present in the constituency on the polling day.

As per the existing rules, an NRI's name gets deleted from the voters list if he or she stays outside the country for more than six months at a stretch.


First Published: Wednesday, January 05, 2011, 17:50

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