Even as the Supreme Court ordered the Central government on Monday to give Non-Resident Indians e-voting rights within eight weeks to allow them to cast their ballots without travelling physically to their constituencies, it did not mention any such provision for the millions of migrant workers within India who remain removed from the voting process. Internal migrants cannot vote unless they travel back to their home constituencies. The expense of this prevents a great many migrants from voting. But perhaps a discussion on the question of voting rights of internal migrants was not within the court’s purview in this instance. On November 14 last year, the Supreme Court had asked the Centre to state its position on the Election Commission’s proposal to allow NRIs proxy voting through e-ballots. On Monday, the Centre told the court that it had decided to accept the recommendations. Under this plan, blank postal ballots will be transferred electronically to NRIs, who will post them back to the authorities in their constituencies.
Indian passport holders living overseas gained the right to vote in 2010, when parliament amended the Representation of Peoples Act for this purpose. In 2011, the government issued a notification permitting overseas voters to apply to have their names included on the electoral rolls at their place of residence.
But because these passport holders had to travel back to India to cast their votes, only 11,328 Indians living abroad had availed of the offer by the end of 2013.
The Election Commission’s new proposals have made the process of voting much easier for India’s one crore NRIs.