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Central govt considering law to give voting rights to migrant workers

DATE: 09-Jul-2015

The central government told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that it would consider drafting a law to make provision for postal ballots for migrant workers of the country along the lines of the facility they were extending to non-resident Indians. A bench composed of Chief Justice HL Dattu and Justices Arun Mishra and Amitava Roy was hearing a petition for extending the postal voting rights to NRIs, a law the government has already drafted. Additional Solicitor General (ASG) PL Narasimha, who was representing the central government, told the court that a committee to consider such a law has already been set up and is expected to submit a report by September 15 after advocate Prashant Bhushan suggested that the government should consider extending the facility to the country’s migrant population. The bench added that the Election Commission was considering such a law. The central government also told the court that it would make changes in the current draft Bill for postal voting for NRIs before it was tabled in the Parliament. The bench will now hear the case two months later after the bench said that the central government required more time for the project. The court was hearing a batch of petitions filed by Nagender Chindam, Chairman of London-based Pravasi Bharat Organisation, and other NRIs. In the previous hearing on April 13, the apex court gave the central government time to make changes in statutes to extend voting rights to NRIs through postal ballots and consider a proposal made by a 12-member committee led by Deputy Election Commissioner Vinod Zutshi recommending various alternatives for overseas electors. The Election Commission of India has previously voiced its reluctance to extend such facilities to the country’s migrant population. "Scheme of the Representation of People Act is that a person can be enrolled only at the place where he is ordinarily resident, the question of any person migrating to a different place from his native place, enrolling himself in the electoral roll of his native place does not arise," the poll panel had said in an affidavit to the court. "Such person has to get himself enrolled in the electoral roll of the new place where he is ordinarily resident and he can then vote in such new place," it had said. "A person shall not be deemed to be ordinarily resident in a constituency on the ground only that he owns or is in possession of a dwelling house therein. The qualification for being resident at given place is not fulfilled merely because a person owns a house at that place," the affidavit had said. — PTI