The Supreme Court also sought the government's response on voting facilities for migrant labourers and armed forces personnel (file photo)
Indian passport holders living abroad will soon be able to cast their vote without having to fly back to India during elections. The Supreme Court has directed the government to enable e-ballot voting and proxy voting by Non Resident Indians (NRIs) within eight weeks.
The government told the court on Monday that it has approved e-ballot voting and proxy voting for NRIs, recommended by the Election Commission (EC) in a report, and it would have the process in place after amending the relevant laws.
In e-ballot voting, a blank postal ballot paper is emailed to the voter, who has to then fill it and post it to their constituency. The EC said there is a very little risk of manipulation, rigging or violation of secrecy in this new system.
Allowing NRIs to vote from abroad is most likely to make an impact in states like Kerala, which has 4 million people working overseas and will have a state election next year.
In 2010, the government had allowed NRIs voting rights, but the rules required them to be present in their constituency on the day of voting. This was challenged by Shamsheer Vayalil, an NRI based in Abu Dhabi. On his petition, the court had asked for a report from the EC.
The EC examined several options for NRIs to cast their vote. It rejected the idea of casting votes at diplomatic missions abroad. "The committee is also of the view that internet voting is also not a feasible option until appropriate technology/information technology applications and all other vulnerabilities are addressed," the EC said.
According to PTI, leaders of the Indian expatriate community in the UAE have welcomed e-ballot voting.
Anwar Naha, president of Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre – which has been campaigning for NRI voting rights – congratulated the government for accepting the EC’s recommendations.
"Now our request is to ensure a consensus among all political parties for the smooth and secure implementation of the e-ballot voting system," he told the Khaleej Times.
The reform of voting procedures may not end here though. Shamsheer’s lawyer Dushyant Dave placed another plea before the Supreme Court on Monday, requesting voting facilities for migrant labourers, who constitute nearly 30% of the total population, and for armed forces personnel posted in remote areas. The bench sought the government’s response on these issues.