Voting Rights of Non Resident Indians (NRIs)

A Non Resident Indian is an Indian Citizen, who stays abroad for employment / business or vacation. Various people that are counted as NRIs are as follows:

  • An Indian passport holder who stays outside India for more than total , not necessarily continuous, 182 days in a financial year is an NRI.
  • The persons posted in United Nations and its organizations/ office or deputed abroad by the central;, state governments and public sector undertakings or on temporary assignments are also NRIs.

The NRI become resident Indians only when they come back to country for employment / business / vacation / any other purpose indicating indefinite stay.

Voting Rights of NRI

The NRIs were barred from voting under Section 19 of the Representation of the People’s Act, 1950, if they remained outside India for six months for whatever reasons. The NRIs were provided voting rights and right to get their name registered in the electoral roll under the Representation of People’s (Amendment) Act 2010. However, Section 20(A) of this act required the NRIs to be physically present in their constituencies to cast their votes. Thus, there was no provision for absentee voting. This bizarre condition would not offer a practical solution to the manner of affecting the voting rights of NRIs.

Other rights of NRIs

The NRI’s have been granted the following facilities.

  • Maintenance of banking accounts in India.
  • Investments in securities / shares of Indian firms and companies.
  • Deposits with Indian firms and companies.
  • Investments in Immovable properties in India (certain rules are their prescribed by RBI). [currentuser_id]

The Election Commission Report 2014

In October 2014, the Election Commission prepared a report on options for voters overseas. In this report, the Commission recommended to allow the NRIs to vote via e-postal ballots or proxy-voting.

The government accepted these recommendations and informed the Supreme Court in January 2015 about the same, while SC was hearing a petition on this matter.

Current Status

Providing E-ballot will need another amendment of the RoPA.  In September 2015, the Government has informed the Supreme Court that it would consider a draft bill to enable e-ballot system for Non Resident Indians (NRIs). Once activated, the e-ballot system will enable the NRIs to vote from their respective hometown and they won’t have to fly all the way to India for casting their vote. The Supreme Court has given two months time to the government to make amendments to the act.

Importance and Analysis

There are around 10 million Indian citizens living abroad, averaging 18000 votes per constituency considering the fact that there are 543 Lok Sabha constituencies.  These votes, if polled have capability to play a crucial role in state and general elections.

India’s expatriate community has been long demanding the facility to cast their vote from abroad. All the legislative barriers which prevent from exercising its franchise violate their fundamental rights.

The government is bound to create infrastructure, systems and processes so that all citizens of the country have an opportunity to cast their vote. The new government has given special stress on giving value to the ties with NRIs and has maintained relations with the Diaspora evident during his foreign tours.

The new law will enable NRIs to be able to vote via their trusted proxies in the constituencies or via e-ballots to be returned via post. A proposal to allow voting at Indian embassies is also given.

However, the only irking point is that NRIs who don’t have to face the consequences for their votes, is it right to make them participate in the process and if yes, then to what extent?


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