SC seeks Centre’s view on proxy or e-voting for NRIs

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday sought the Centre’s view on the Election Commission-appointed expert committee’s recommendation for introduction of e-postal ballot and voting through a proxy for non-resident Indians (NRIs) to allow them to cast their vote in elections.

A bench of Chief Justice H L Dattu and Justice A K Sikri requested additional solicitor general L Nageswara Rao to consider making available these two modes of voting to NRIs and also examine whether it would require amendments to existing legal framework. It wanted the Centre’s response in four weeks.

The committee found that a large number of countries had adopted mixed procedures and provided for more than one voting option for its citizens residing abroad. “The committee recommends that in order to cater to the needs of all categories of NRIs, additional alternative options of e-postal ballot and proxy voting can be made available depending upon the preference exercised by NRI voter,” the EC expert panel had said.

“In case, NRI voter does not exercise any of these additional two options, then by default it will be deemed that overseas electors will cast his/her vote as per existing legal provisions and procedures at the polling station in India,” it said.

After deliberating with the government, political parties and stakeholders, the panel had rejected the options of opening polling booths at Indian missions abroad and voting through internet.

On e-postal ballot system, it said, “In this, the postal ballot will be transferred from returning officer to NRI one way electronically and the NRI will send back marked postal ballot by post to returning officer. One way transfer of blank postal ballot papers can be used because it has relatively no risk associated with manipulation/rigging at the end of the voter or any violation of secrecy.”

It wanted the e-postal ballot system to be experimented in elections to one or two assembly constituencies and later scaled up to cover more assembly constituencies before being implemented for parliamentary elections.

“In order to enable NRI voters to cast their vote by proposed alternative options of e-postal ballot or proxy voting, necessary amendments may have to be carried out in Section 60 of the Representative of People Act, 1951 to provide that an ‘overseas elector’ may give his vote either in person or by proxy or by postal ballot in such manner as may be prescribed,” it said.

The manner of electronic transmission of ballot paper and voting through proxy has to be provided for by amending Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, it said.