Non-resident Indians will not enjoy proxy voting rights in 2019 polls too

DATE: 25-Feb-2019 Reported By: The Arabian Stories

The last session of Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance government has failed to get the Bill passed in Rajya Sabha even though it was passed in Lok Sabha in August 2018.

MUSCAT: Indians residing in Oman and other foreign countries will not be able to vote in the 2019 Lok Sabha election as the Upper House of the Indian Parliament has failed to pass a Bill regarding the same.

Rajya Sabha, the Upper House of the Indian Parliament, had adjourned indefinitely yesterday.

This was the last session of Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance government.

By 2019 April, the country will be going to polls. Passed in Lok Sabha, the lower house on August 8, 2018, the Bill had to be cleared by the Rajya Sabha too.

However, the Indian Law Ministry has missed the small window of opportunity. To enable non-resident Indians to vote, the Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill, 2017, had to be passed.

It was introduced in Lok Sabha by the Minister of Law and Justice, Mr. Ravi Shankar Prasad on December 18, 2017.

The Bill seeks to amend the Representation of People Act, 1950 and the Representation of People Act, 1951 to allow for proxy voting and to make certain provisions of the Acts gender-neutral.

Earlier, responding to media queries, a senior law ministry official said, “All pending bills are important as it is the last session. In the Winter session, it was listed in the Rajya Sabha agenda every day.”

Rajya Sabha was repeatedly disrupted in the previous session due to Rafale and other issues.

If the bill had becoms a law, Non-resident Indians eligible to vote in India would have got a chance to appoint proxies who can vote on their behalf. These proxies will change for every election.

As of now, overseas Indians have to register as voter, come to India, go to their constituency with the original passport issued to them when they had gone abroad and cast their votes.

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

An expert committee of Election Commission had said no to e-voting for NRIs but had approved proxy voting.

Another provision in the amendment bill relates to the spouses of service voters.

As of now, an army man’s wife is entitled to be enrolled as a service voter, but a woman army officer’s husband is not, according to the provisions in the electoral law.

The bill proposes to replace the term ‘wife’ with ‘spouse’, thus making the provision gender neutral. Members of the armed forces, central armed police forces, personnel of state police forces posted outside their state and employees of the Centre posted outside India are eligible to be enrolled as service voters.

Even diplomats and other officials serving in embassies abroad come in this category. In fact, making election law gender neutral for service voters is one of the reforms being pushed by Election Commission.