Muscat: A panel to explore the possibility of allowing non-resident Indians (NRIs) to cast their votes overseas has been appointed by the Indian Election Commission (EC), the poll body told the Supreme Court on Monday.
The EC has told the apex court that it has appointed a committee to explore the possibility of allowing NRIs to cast their votes overseas while it was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by a Gulf-based non-resident Indian (NRI), Shamsheer VP, who contended that the existing provision which mandates any NRI voter to be physically present in the constituency to exercise his vote was discriminatory and a violation of fundamental rights.
"This is a welcome move. It will be a blessing for the NRIs," Shamsheer told the Times of Oman from India over phone.
"The EC wanted more time to explore the options but the apex court has asked it to file its response on April 11, the next date of hearing itself. As the elections are being held in nine phases, the court has told the EC that there is still time. So, we are hoping for the best. May be the registered NRIs will be able to cast their votes," Shamseer, who is also one of the 'Pravasi Bharatiya Samman' recipients this year, added.
Indian expats for voting rights
The EC earlier had told the court that it is almost impossible to make any such arrangement for NRIs to cast their votes from overseas in the ongoing general election as electoral rolls have been finalised in almost all the constituencies.
However, the court has asked the EC to do something in this election itself. India's general election, which started on Monday, will be held in nine phases till May 12. About 814,500,000 people will have a ballot, and around 20 per cent of these will be eligible for the first time.
Shamseer has submitted that a total of over 10 million people will be entitled to cast their vote if NRIs are allowed to vote from overseas. The PIL said 114 countries have adopted external voting and amongst these are 20 Asian countries. It said that the external voting could be by setting up polling booths at the diplomatic missions, or by postal, proxy or electronic voting.