"India's expatriate community has been long demanding the facility to cast their vote from abroad."Examine the issue and current policy stance of the Government. Why such rights have not been given to domestic migrants? Discuss.

A huge percentage of the population of India are living abroad temporarily or permanently on account of education, employment, and other related reasons. Earlier, these citizens were not able to participate in the election process i.e. registration and voting due to the then prevailing law which required that only a citizen ordinarily resident within the territorial limits of a constituency in the country is eligible to be registered as a voter in that constituency. Consequently, NRIs were not able to enroll themselves as voters in their home constituencies and were not able to exercise their franchise. But demand was arisen by the expatriate community to introduce the facility to cast their vote from abroad.

Current situation

Expatriate Indian communities have been allowed to cast their vote in the elections since 2010. The only condition was that they have not acquired dual citizenship as mentioned in the Indian constitution. However, the voters must be physically present during voting at their original constituency to vote.

Committee formation

Vinod Zutsi Panel, which was set up to suggest measures on that issues, expressed its approbation in favor of postal ballot, proxy voting, and allowing NRIs to vote through the Internet or at diplomatic missions abroad for the time being. In order to ratify the recommendation, an amendment is needed in Section 60 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.

Government’s action

Both migrant workers and NRIs are denied voting as the Representation of the People Act mandate that “a citizen, to avail voting rights, should be an ordinary resident in his constituency”. The Election commission has, however, rejected another plea to allow inter-state migrants to also have options of postal, proxy, or e-ballot to enable them to vote for their native constituencies.

Comment

The expatriate community and domestic migrants could redefine the political landscape of the country through casting their voting power. It is also estimated that an average of 18,000 votes per constituency may get polled from abroad. These additional votes, if polled, may play a crucial role in state and general elections.

Question for UPSC Mains:
“India’s expatriate community has been long demanding the facility to cast their vote from abroad.” Examine the issue and current policy stance of the Government. Why such rights have not been given to domestic migrants? Discuss.

Published: February 4, 2016 | Modified:September 23, 2020

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