Union Cabinet clears proposal to extend proxy voting facility to NRIs

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India’s Union Cabinet on Wednesday cleared a proposal to extend the facility of voting by electronic means and proxy to Non-resident Indians (NRIs) by amending electoral laws.

At present, an overseas Indian could cast his or her vote in the constituency he or she belonged to by being physically present at the polling station.

As per the new proposal, NRIs would also be allowed to use the option of proxy, which as of now is only available to service personnel like Army officers.

For overseas Indians, the Representation of the People Act needs to be amended to include proxy voting as other means to cast their votes.

What is proxy voting

Proxy voting is a form of voting whereby a voter may delegate his or her voting power to a representative, to enable a vote in absence.

A person so designated is called a “proxy” and the person designating him or her is called a “principal”.

The proxy shall have to be ordinary resident of that constituency. He need not be a registered voter but he/she must not be disqualified to be registered as a voter.

The proxy can record the vote on behalf of the service voter at the polling station to which service voter is assigned, in the same manner as any other elector assigned to that polling station.

The proxy will be entitled to vote on behalf of the service voter, in addition to the vote that he/she may cast in his / her own name if he/she is a registered elector in the constituency, at the polling station to which he/she has been normally assigned.

As per current rules for service personnel, application for appointment of a proxy should be received by the Returning Officer before the last date of filing of nomination papers.

Decision after Supreme Court order

On July 21, the Supreme Court sought to know from the Central government the time it would require for bringing a bill amending the Representation of People Act to allowing NRIs vote from their overseas locations.

In its earlier hearing, the apex court had asked the Central government to take a call whether it wanted to amend the Act or the Rules to decide on the modalities of the NRI voting from abroad.

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Appearing for the Election Commission, senior counsel Meenakshi Arora told the apex court that by amending the rules, that they can put in place modalities of voting by the overseas electors, but it was necessary to amend the law to create an exception for overseas voters.

Data shows that only 10,000-12,000 NRIs have voted because they do not want to spend foreign currency to come to India and exercise their franchise, PTI reported.

Published on 2 August 2017
Sources: Election Commission,  Press Trust of India

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