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Above: Voters standing in a queue to cast their votes, at a polling booth, during the fifth phase of West Bengal Assembly Election (file picture). Photo: PIB

Despite the Representation of the People Act allowing a Non Resident Indian (NRI) the right to enrol as a voter in India, he/she is not allowed to vote through postal ballots (like defence personnel) or through a more modern e-voting system. This denied them their fundamental rights.

On Friday (July 14) the Supreme Court came down heavily on the Centre for this lapse and gave the government a week to decide whether the Act would be amended to allow such people to vote.

The bench of Chief Justice JS Khehar and Justice DY Chandrachud studied a report of a panel headed by Deputy Election Commissioner Vinod Zutshi which said that the Election Commission of India (ECI) and the Centre were, in fact, agreeable to the issue, but action has been missing in this regard.

The action needed was in amending the Act or in the rules made under the Act.

The bench said: “The only question that arises for consideration now is whether the Union of India (UOI) needs to accept proposals made in the report dated October, 2014, which have already been accepted in-principle by way of an amendment of Sections 20 and 20A of the RP Act, 1950, or, alternatively, by a mere amendment of the Rules.

“Factually, on the instant aspect of the matter, the UOI had sought time on November 18, 2016. Further time is again being sought. We afford one further opportunity to the UOI to take a final decision, whether the proposals accepted by it need to be implemented by way of an amendment to the provisions of the RP Act or the Rules framed there under.”

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, for the petitioners, said NRIs could be given the right to vote by making changes in the rules and there was no need to amend the provisions of the RP Act.

—India Legal Bureau

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