India’s top court asks govt by when law will be changed on NRI voting
India’s Supreme Court on Friday asked the Union government to apprise it within two weeks about the timeframe by when it would bring a bill to amend the electoral law to allow Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) to vote through postal or e-ballots.
A bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud considered the statement of Attorney General K K Venugopal that NRIs could not be allowed to vote by merely changing the rules made under the Representation of People (RP) Act and a bill was needed to be introduced in Parliament to amend the Act to grant voting rights to them, the news agency Press Trust of India reported.
The attorney general also informed the bench that a group of Union ministers has held a meeting to examine various aspects of the issue including amending the law.
The court had on July 14 asked the Union government to decide in a week whether it would amend the electoral law or rules to allow NRIs to vote by postal or e-ballots while taking note of the fact that the Union government and the Election Commission of India were agreeable to the report of a panel that they might be allowed to vote.
During the proceedings, Venugopal ruled out the option of amending the rules and said that the law has to be suitably changed.
The poll panel had said the move to allow NRIs to use proxy voting on the lines of defence personnel and e-ballot facility would require changes either in the RP Act or in the rules made under the act.
The Union government had said that in principle, it was agreeable to the recommendations made in the report prepared by a 12-member committee led by the deputy election commissioner Vinod Zutshi to explore the feasibility of alternative options for voting by overseas electors.
Former attorney general Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for one of the petitioners, had earlier said that NRIs could be given the right to vote by making changes in the rules only and there was no need to amend the provisions of the RP Act.
The bench was hearing a batch of petitions filed by Nagender Chindam, who is the chairman of London-based Pravasi Bharat organisation and other NRIs including Shamsheer V P on the issue.