Non Resident Indians or NRIs will soon be able to cast their vote from abroad, without having to fly back to their hometown during elections. The Supreme Court today directed the central government to enable e-voting by NRIs within eight weeks.
The government told the court that it has approved e-ballot voting for Indian passport holders abroad, recommended by the Election Commission in a report, and it would have the process in place after amending laws.
E-ballot voting should be allowed "at the earliest," the Supreme Court told the Centre, in heartening news for an estimated 11 million NRIs across the world.
In e-ballot voting, a blank postal ballot paper is emailed to the voter, who has to then fill it and mail it by post to their constituency. Allowing NRIs to vote abroad is likely to make an impact in states like Kerala, which has 40 lakh people abroad and votes next year for a new government.
There is very little risk of manipulation, rigging or violation of secrecy in this system, the commission has reportedly said. It had also suggested that NRIs should be allowed to vote by proxy.
In 2010, the government allowed them voting rights, but the rules required them to be present in their constituency on the day of voting.
This was challenged by Shamsheer Vayalil, an NRI based in Abu Dhabi. On his petition, the court asked for a report from the Election Commission.
For years, NRIs were deprived of voting rights if they had been out of the country for more than six months at a stretch.
Last week, at the Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas at Gandhinagar in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state Gujarat, the government reached out to the Indian diaspora and promised them more rights and opportunities.