Voting rights: Kerala NRIs demand changes to People Act

Thiruvananthapuram, Feb 28 (PTI): The Kerala Non- Resident Indians (NRI) Commission on Friday demanded the right to vote from their workplace and passed a unanimous resolution seeking amendment to the Representation of the People Act in this regard.

The commission is a statutory body constituted under the Non-Resident Indian (Keralites) Commissions Act, 2016, for the welfare of non-resident Keralites working outside India.

The resolution, moved by commission member and NRI entrepreneur Shamsheer Vayalil, demanded the amendment to the Representation of the People Act without any further delay 'enabling millions of NRIs to exercise their voting rights from their workplace' outside the country.

The resolution said the commission resolves to request the Central government and Election Commission of India to make appropriate amendment to the Representation of People Act, 1951, to ensure voting rights for the non-resident Indians working abroad.

The Centre had introduced a bill for this purpose and was passed by the Lok Sabha in 2018, but the same has since lapsed.

The NRI commission requested that the central government may consider introducing the bill in the next session of Parliament.

'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, the commission said.

According to the estimate of the Ministry of External Affairs, there are about 3.10 crore NRIs living in different countries across the world.

Meanwhile, an unofficial data of the Election Commission shows a small fraction of the NRIs was now casting their votes.

Commission chairman Justice PD Rajan said, 'This is the time for us to 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.' Vayalil is also the petitioner in the writ filed in the matter in the Supreme Court.

'We would also approach the NRI commission in other states and request them to raise the same demand. All of the agencies must come together for this. NRIs have been longing for this decision,' Vayalil said.

The Lok Sabha had passed a bill enabling NRI proxy voting rights in August 2018.

This was done after an expert committee of the Election Commission forwarded the legal framework to the law ministry to amend the electoral laws.

However, the bill lapsed following the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha. PTI RRT NVG NVG