Bill proposes to let NRIs nominate proxies to vote on their behalf
Monday 20 August 2018 10:57 PM UTC
NEW DELHI Aug 21: Voting in an Indian election can be done in three ways — in person, by post and through a proxy. Under proxy voting, a registered elector can delegate his voting power to a representative.
During the recent monsoon session, Lok Sabha passed a Bill that proposes to allow non-resident Indians to use proxies to cast votes on their behalf in Indian elections. How have NRIs been voting so far, and what does the Bill propose to change?
Voting in an Indian election can be done in three ways — in person, by post and through a proxy. Under proxy voting, a registered elector can delegate his voting power to a representative.
This was introduced in 2003 for elections to the Lok Sabha and Assemblies, but on a limited scale.
Only a “classified service voter” — a definition that includes members of the armed forces, BSF, CRPF, CISF, General Engineering Reserve Force and Border Road Organisation — is allowed to nominate a proxy to cast vote on his behalf in his absence.
A classified service voter can also vote by postal ballot.
The Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill, 2017, proposes to amend Section 60 and extend the facility of proxy voting to Indian voters living abroad. Introduced in Lok Sabha last December and passed last week, it now needs Rajya Sabha’s approval.
“… The said rules (Registration of Electors Rules, 1960) stipulate the physical presence of the overseas electors in the respective polling station in India on the day of polling.
This causes hardship to the overseas electors in exercising their franchise by being present in India on the day of polling,” reads Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad’s statement on the objective of the Bill.
According to a UN report of 2015, India’s diaspora population is the largest in the world at 16 million. Registration of NRI voters, in comparison, has been low. In 2014, 11,846 people were registered as “overseas electors”, of whom 11,448 were registered in Kerala.
According to figures tabled by the government during the winter session of Parliament, the number of NRI voters has risen to 24,348, including 23,556 in Kerala.
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