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Kerala body passes resolution seeking NRI voting rights

Dhanusha Gokulan (Principal Correspondent)/Thiruvananthapuram Filed on February 29, 2020 | Last updated on February 29, 2020 at 11.47 am
NRI, NRI voting rights, Kerala, India, Kerala voting

If implemented, millions of NRIs around the world would be able to exercise their franchise in the electoral processes of the nation.

Kerala NRI Commission, a quasi-judicial body constituted by the state government to look into the grievances and welfare of non-resident Keralites, has unanimously passed a resolution seeking the rights for non-resident Indians (NRIs) to cast votes from their workplace.

The resolution moved by commission member and Abu Dhabi-based businessman Dr Shamsheer Vayalil demanded for the amendment of Representation of the People Act without any further delay, enabling millions of NRIs to exercise their voting rights from their workplace outside the country. Dr Shamsheer is also the petitioner in the writ petition filed regarding this in the Supreme Court of India.

The resolution demanding the central government and the Election Commission of India to formulate a law enabling the right was seconded by all the commission members.

"The central government may consider introducing the bill in the next session of the Parliament session considering the interest of the NRI community at large," the resolution read. The approved resolution would be sent to the Ministry of Law, Election Commission of India and the central government.

Commission Chairman Justice PD Rajan said the right to vote for NRIs is a genuine one. "This is time that we step up pressure on the agencies concerned to implement this. Voting from the workplace would be a different experience for them. It would be a decisive step," he said.

Meanwhile, giving a lease of life to the petition filed in the Supreme Court, a bench led by Justice Deepak Gupta, which considered the case a week ago, had observed that the case will be disposed of in April after a detailed hearing.

Dr Shamsheer told Khaleej Times: "We are expecting a favourable decision from the Supreme Court. We would also approach the NRI commissions in other states and request them to raise the same demand. All the agencies must come together for this. NRIs have been longing for this decision," he said.

If implemented, millions of NRIs around the world would be able to exercise their franchise in the electoral processes of the nation. According to the estimate of the Ministry of External Affairs, there are about 31 million NRIs living in different countries across the world. Meanwhile, an unofficial data of the Election Commission shows a small fraction of the NRIs is now casting their votes.

Currently, overseas Indians are free to cast their votes in their registered constituencies. The PIL demands right for NRIs to vote from their workplace through e-ballot or proxy voting.

The lower house of the parliament had passed a bill enabling NRI proxy voting rights earlier in August 2018 after an expert committee of the Election Commission has forwarded the legal framework to the law ministry to amend electoral laws. However, it was lapsed following the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha.


Dhanusha Gokulan

Originally from India, Dhanusha Gokulan has been working as a journalist for 10 years. She has a keen interest in writing about issues that plague the common person, and will never turn down a human interest story. She completed her Bachelor in Arts in Journalism, Economics, and English Literature from Mangalore University in 2008. In her spare time, she dabbles with some singing/songwriting, loves travelling, and Audible is her favourite mobile application. Tweet at her @wordjunkie88

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