SC gives govt a week to decide on giving voting rights to NRIs

SC gives govt a week to decide on giving voting rights to NRIs

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NEW DELHI (TIP): Pulling up the Centre, the Supreme Court
 on July 14 allowed one last chance that is to tell by next Friday as to
 how it planned to allow 25 million Non-Resident Indians (NRIs)across 
the world to participate in Indian elections through e-vote.

A bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar 
and Justice D Y Chandrachud asked the Centre to make it clear within one
 week if it planned to amend the Act or concerned Rules under 
the Representation of People’s Act.

“This is a petition of 2014. Every year 
you keep saying we will amend we will amend. You said this in 2014, 15, 
16 and again..this is not the way a government works”, an angry CJI 
Khehar told the Central government’s counsel.

At the outset, former Attorney General 
Mukul Rohatgi, appearing against the Centre for the first time after 
quitting the AG post questioned the Centre”s delay in making the 
necessary changes to allow NRIs to vote and said ‘ they are only buying 
time by saying they need to amend the Act while they only need to change
 the rules which is a simple process.”

“They allow Armed forces personal to 
vote other defence personal all through postal ballot etc only to NRIs 
most of them from Kerala they say you come to India
 and vote” Rohatgi told the bench. In December last a bench headed by 
then Chief Justice T S Thakur enquired about the latest stand of the 
union government after senior advocate Kapil Sibal appearing for a 
petitioner said one and a half years ago the Centre had accepted the 
Election Commission’s (EC) proposal in this regard, claimed it 
formulated a draft bill and told the court that steps are being taken to
 get the Representation of People Act 1951 amended but things have not 
moved much.

“Senior counsel appearing for the Union 
of India seeks time to take instructions whether any amendment to the 
Representation of People Act, 1950 and 1951 is proposed in terms of 
the recommendations received from the Election Commission in so far as 
the Notification of NRI’s as special voters is concerned, if so, the 
status of such process may be informed within 8 weeks”, the CJI said in 
the order.

Once e-vote is allowed, NRIs will not 
have to fly home to vote. Responding to the PILs, the EC had ruled 
out the possibility of allowing NRIs to vote through the Internet or at 
diplomatic missions abroad for the time being. But it said e-postal 
ballot system has almost no risk of manipulation, rigging or violation 
of secrecy.

The government had on July 8, last year 
told the court that it has “in principle” approved eballot voting for 
Indian passport holders abroad, recommended by the Election Commission 
in a report, and it would have the process in place after making 
necessary amendments to the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1951, 
that dealt with elections in the country.

“The recommendation has been accepted 
in letter and spirit, and a committee had been set up to devise the 
modalities of its implementation”, Additional Solicitor General P L 
Narasimha representing the Centre had said on that day.

SC then directed the government to enable evoting by NRIs within two months after effecting the amendments.


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