A bill to amend the electoral law to allow Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) to vote through postal or e-ballots would be introduced in the upcoming Winter Session of Parliament, the Centre today informed the Supreme Court.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud considered the submission of the Centre and acceded to its request that the hearing on petitions seeking voting rights for NRIs, be adjourned.
Lawyer PK Dey, appearing for the Centre, sought adjournment for six months on the ground that the Bill would be tabled in the Winter Session. However, the bench deferred the hearing by 12 weeks.
On July 21, Attorney General KK Venugopal had told the court that NRIs could not be allowed to vote by merely changing the rules made under the Representation of People (RP) Act and a Bill was needed to be introduced in Parliament to amend the Act itself to grant the voting rights.
The court had on July 14 asked the Centre to decide whether it would amend the electoral law or rules to allow NRIs to vote by postal or e-ballots in the polls in the country, taking note of the fact that the Centre and the Election Commission of India (ECI) were agreeable to the report of a panel that NRIs might be allowed to vote.
The poll panel had said the move to allow NRIs to use proxy voting on the lines of defence personnel and e-ballot facility would require changes either in the RP Act or in the rules made under the Act.
The Centre had said that in principle, it was agreeable to the recommendations made in the report prepared by a 12-member committee led by the deputy election commissioner Vinod Zutshi to explore the feasibility of alternative options for voting by overseas electors.
Former attorney general Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for one of the petitioners, had said that NRIs could be given the right to vote by making changes in the rules only and there was no need to amend the provisions of the RP Act.
The bench was hearing a batch of petitions filed by Nagender Chindam, the chairman of London-based Pravasi Bharat organisation and other NRIs including Shamsheer VP.
Earlier, the Centre had said that the draft legislation to provide voting rights to NRIs through postal ballots would be further revised before it is tabled in Parliament.
The apex court had said it could not order the legislature to make or amend a law within a particular timeframe and had granted time to the Centre to effect changes in the statute to extend voting rights to NRIs through postal or e-ballots.
It was submitted in one of the pleas that in Kerala, 70 per cent of the people were NRIs who should be given this right keeping in view their contribution to the country.
The PILs have said that 114 countries, including 20 Asian nations, have adopted external voting. It said external voting could be held by setting up polling booths at diplomatic missions or through postal, proxy or electronic voting.