Bill to allow proxy voting by NRIs passed by Lok Sabha

• A bill to extend the facility of ‘proxy voting’ to overseas Indians, on the lines of service voters, was passed by the Lok Sabha.

• Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill 2017 will help non-resident Indians to participate in the electoral process.

• The Bill, which was passed by a voice vote in the Lower House, proposes that overseas Indians, who are entitled to vote in India, could not appoint a proxy voter to cast their votes.

• As of now, overseas Indians were free to cast their votes in the constituencies where they were registered. The Bill seeks to give them the option of proxy voting, which until now was only available to service personnel.

• According to estimates of the Ministry of External Affairs, there are about 3.10 crore NRIs living in different countries across the world.

• An expert committee of the Election Commission, working on the issue, had in 2015 forwarded the legal framework to the Law Ministry to amend the electoral laws to allow the overseas Indians to use proxy voting.

• Unofficial data with EC shows that only 10,000 to 12,000 overseas voters have exercised their franchise because they do not want to spend foreign currency to come to India and vote.

• Another provision in the amendment bill relates to the spouses of service voters. As of now, an army man’s wife is entitled to be enrolled as a service voter, but a woman army officer’s husband is not, according to the provisions in the electoral law.

• The bill proposes to replace the term ‘wife’ with ‘spouse’, thus making the provision gender neutral.

• Members of the armed forces, central armed police forces, personnel of state police forces posted outside their state and employees of the centre posted outside India are eligible to be enrolled as service voters.

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