NRIs Current Affairs
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Government has informed Lok Sabha that Non-Resident Indians (NRI) cannot file Right to Information (RTI) applications to seek governance-related information from Central government departments. It mentioned that only citizens of India have the right to seek information under the provisions of RTI Act, 2005 and NRIs are not eligible to file RTI applications.
Right to Information Act 2005
This law was passed by Parliament on 15 June 2005 and came fully into force on 12 October 2005. It mandates timely response to citizen requests for government information by various public authorities under Central Government as well as the State Governments. The law imposes penalty for wilful default by government officials. Citizens can ask for anything that government can disclose to Parliament.
Objectives of RTI are to empower citizens (as right to information is fundamental right of the citizens under Article 19), promote transparency and accountability in working of Government, check corruption and make our democracy work for the people in real sense.
Public authorities defined under this law are required to reply expeditiously or within thirty days of the request. The law also mandates every public authority to computerise their records for wide dissemination and proactively certain categories of information so that citizens need minimum recourse to request for information formally.
Note: Information that can prejudicially impact internal security, relations with foreign countries, intellectual property rights, breach of parliamentary privilege and impedes investigations cannot be shared with public under RTI. Cabinet papers are exempted from RTI until decision has been implemented. However, discussions within Cabinet are never disclosed under RTI.
The Union Cabinet has cleared a proposal to extend proxy voting to Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) and overseas Indians. Currently, only service personnel are permitted to vote through proxy.
To make proxy voting for NRIs a reality, government is going to introduce bill to amend the Representation of People Act.
This decision will enable nearly 16 million NRIs to cast vote their in Indian elections (assembly and Lok Sabha elections) by appointing proxies residing in their constituencies. Overseas electors will have to appoint a nominee afresh for each election — one person can act as proxy for only one overseas voter. Government (Election Commission) will frame suitable rules and guidelines to make this move effective soon.
Need for Proxy Voting
Currently, Indian voters residing abroad can only cast their votes in their respective constituencies where they are registered. This regulation is seen as restrictive as only a few thousand Indians living overseas have registered themselves as voters (maximum from Kerala). Of these, barely anyone has travelled to the country to exercise his or her franchise during the elections.
Expert committee Recommendation
An expert committee in the Election Commission of India (ECI) working on the issue in 2015 had forwarded the legal framework to the Union Law ministry to amend electoral laws to allow overseas Indians use proxy voting.
According to rough estimates, there are about 1 crore Indians settled abroad, of which 60 lakh may be within eligible voting age. By granting them proxy voting rights, NRIs will be able to exercise franchise during elections and also need not to spend foreign currency to come to India during elections. Moreover, this decision will also enable NRIS and overseas Indian to considerably sway in election results, especially in states such as Punjab, Kerala and Gujarat where a number of expats hail from.