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.