India’s Supreme Court, the country’s highest court, on Monday asked the government to allow Non-Resident Indians (NRIs), or Indian citizens living abroad, to vote remotely. This would mean that Indians living in foreign countries would be allowed to vote from their country of residence. Until now, Indian citizens living abroad have had to travel back home in order to exercise their franchise, something not many people do. India had given voting rights to NRIs in 2010. Under the new system — e-voting — a blank postal ballot paper is emailed to the voter, who has to then fill it and send it to their constituency via post, according to a report by NDTV, a local news network. India already allows on-duty defense personnel and certain categories of government officers and exiled Kashmiri Hindus to cast their vote remotely. The apex court has reportedly said that the proposed e-voting mechanism, which could require a constitutional amendment, should be implemented within eight weeks.
More than 10 million Indian citizens currently live abroad and, according to government data, a significant number of Indian passport holders reside in North America, Europe, the Persian Gulf, Africa, Singapore, China and Australia, among other countries. This group is separate from People of Indian Origin (PIO), who are citizens of other countries and do not have voting rights in India.
Last week, at the annual Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas (Non-resident Indian Day), Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made a strong pitch to wealthy Indian expats, spread over 200 countries, to invest in India. Since assuming office in May, Modi has made significant overtures and received hearty welcomes from Indians on his trips to the U.S. and Australia.