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No postal ballots for NRIs this time: ECI

Topics Covered: Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.

No postal ballots for NRIs this time: ECI:


Context:

The Election Commission has said that postal ballots facility would not be extended to NRIs for the upcoming elections to the Assam, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Kerala and West Bengal Assemblies.

Background:

The Election Commission of India (ECI) had written to the Law Ministry on November 27, 2020 with the proposal of extending postal ballots to overseas electors.

EC’s note was further referred to the Ministry of External Affairs. The MEA was of the opinion that a wider meeting of stakeholders should be held.

How the Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System works?

  1. Under ETPBS, postal ballot is sent electronically to a service voter.
  2. The voter downloads it and uses a specific envelope to return it to the returning officer of his constituency.
  3. The postal ballot should reach the returning officer by 8 am on the day of the counting. Counting of votes begin with counting of postal ballots at 8 am.

Amendments:

To extend the voting facility to overseas voters, Government needs to only amend the Conduct of Election Rules 1961, and doesn’t require Parliament’s nod.

What is the current process of voting for Indian citizens living abroad?

  • Voting rights for NRIs were introduced only in 2011, through an amendment to the Representation of the People Act 1950.
  • An NRI can vote in the constituency in which her place of residence, as mentioned in the passport, is located.
  • She can only vote in person and will have to produce her passport in original at the polling station for establishing identity.

What is current strength of NRI voters?

According to a UN report of 2015, India’s diaspora population is the largest in the world at 16 million people.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. What is Postal ballot?
  2. Who can cast their votes through postal ballot?
  3. How do NRIs cast their votes?

Mains Link:

Should NRIs be permitted to cast their votes from overseas through postal ballots? Discuss.

Sources: the Hindu.