Cabinet approves draft bill to facilitate NRI e-voting

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In a big leap towards permitting a 25 million-strong NRI population to vote in Indian elections from abroad, the Supreme Court of India on Monday asked the NDA government to decide on modalities for allowing voting through e-ballots.

Cabinet has approved a draft bill to amend the existing electoral law, which has to be passed by Parliament, officials told the Supreme Court.

The first draft of the bill was referred to the Election Commission of India, which suggested certain amendments that were subsequently incorporated in the bill.

Heartening news for NRIs

The development in the case is heartening news for an estimated 25 million NRIs across the world, the second largest diaspora in the world after the overseas Chinese population.

Until now, due to the high cost of travel and time involved, only a minuscule population of the non-resident Indians (NRIs) came to their hometowns to cast their vote in India. However, e-voting will change this scenario and allow them to vote without having to fly down to India during elections.

In e-voting, a blank postal ballot paper is emailed to the voter, who has to then fill it and mail it by post to their constituency.

At a previous hearing, the government had accepted the Election Commission’s (EC) view that the option of voting through proxy or an e-postal ballot system could be considered for NRIs, who want to cast their vote during elections in India.

The EC had, however, ruled out the possibility of allowing NRIs to vote through the Internet or at diplomatic missions abroad for the time being. According to the EC, the epostal ballot system has almost no risk of manipulation, rigging or violation of secrecy.

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The government revealed this in legal proceedings initiated by an Abu Dhabi-based medical practitioner, Dr Shamsheer Vayalil, and two others.

The government had, in 2010, granted voting rights to NRIs but the rules required them to be present in their constituency on the day of voting.

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