After permitting armed forces personnel to vote at their place of posting, the Supreme Court on Monday attempted to give the non-resident Indians the chance to cast their vote during the ongoing general elections through Indian missions abroad.
A bench of Justices K S Radhakrishnan and N V Ramana found merit in the petition filed by NRI doctor Shamsheer, who said that the staff at Indian missions abroad cast their vote at the embassy or high commission premises. Why Election Commission should insist physical presence of NRIs in India to cast their vote and not allow them to exercise their franchise through the facility available at the Indian missions abroad, he asked.
The bench asked the EC’s counsel to respond to the suggestion by Friday. “You can interact with embassies and tell us by Friday. We are trying to do something for them (NRI voters) in this election,” the bench said.
Interestingly, the Centre, through additional solicitor general K V Vishwanathan, supported the petitioner’s idea. The court asked the Centre to also file its response by Friday. As many as 11,844 NRIs have registered with the EC. Of them, 11,400 belonged to Kerala and were mainly working in the Middle-East. The bench told EC that it could focus on the NRIs already registered as voters.
The EC said it was thinking of constituting committee for facilitating voting by NRIs through internet or a suitable alternative. “We will constitute a committee which will consider the option of electronic voting through internet,” said senior advocate Meenakshi Arora.
The bench asked the EC counsel to inform about its decision on suggestion to allow NRIs to vote through Indian missions abroad by Friday when it was informed that the outcome of the EC’s exercise could be known only by August, which could deprive the NRIs to participate in the ongoing general elections.
Petitioner’s counsel Mukul Rohatgi argued that on one hand Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had assured on Pravasi Bhartiya Divas that persons abroad must have a say in governance but on the other hand, the EC has made it almost impossible for the NRIs vote by insisting on their personal presence in India.