NRIs can now vote for state assembly elections
Overseas Indian citizens will be able to cast their ballot in the five assembly elections.
New Delhi: For the first time in India's voting history, overseas Indian citizens will be able to cast their ballot in person in the five assembly elections, the dates for which were announced on Tuesday.
Chief Election Commissioner SY Qureshi said in accordance with the recent amendment to the Representation of the People Act, overseas Indian citizens have been enabled to be enrolled as voters and would be able to vote in person.
He said election officials have been suitably instructed to facilitate the process of their registration as voters.
Non-resident Indians can now cast votes in their home constituencies as the government has notified rules in this regard, fulfilling the longstanding demand of such people, estimated to be 11 million.
The rules make it clear that the NRIs would have to register as voters and be "physically present" with their passport on the polling day to exercise their franchise. There is no provision for postal balloting.
"Every citizen of India staying in a foreign country, who has not acquired citizenship of a foreign country, and has completed 18 years of age as on January 1 of the year, can make an application for being registered in the roll for the constituency pertaining to the locality in which his place of residence in India as mentioned in the passport is located," said the notification prepared in consultation with the Election Commission.
This meets the longstanding demands of the NRIs and fulfills the promise made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at last year's Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, an annual congregation of Indian diaspora here.
As per the law so far, the name of an NRI would be deleted from the voters' list if he or she did not stay at their residence in India for six months at a stretch.
The NRI voters now can submit the application directly to the electoral registration officer of the constituency within which the place of residence is mentioned in the passport.
The application can either be submitted directly or sent by post. According to the Representation of the People Act, once a person is registered as a voter, he automatically has a right to contest polls also.
As per the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act, 2010, so far a person who has gone out of the country for business or employment should be treated as having moved out of that place.
Mere ownership or possession of a building or other immovable property did not bestow on the owner, the residential qualification.
There are a large number of citizens of India residing outside India due to various reasons. They have been persistently demanding for conferring them voting rights, the Amendment Act said.
Though the issue had been receiving the attention of the Government for quite some time, the demand could not be acceded to owing to certain "practical difficulties" in enrolling them in the electoral rolls of the concerned constituency.
The Act says the right to vote as demanded by the citizens of India living abroad is "their legitimate right." Conferring such right will enable them to participate in the democratic process of elections in their motherland and will also boost their involvement in the nation building.
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