1. The move to ease voting for overseas citizens

  • GS Paper: 2, Representation of People’s Act, Constitutional Bodies.


  • NRIs are eligible to vote in the various State Assembly elections scheduled for 2021, and the Election Commission of India (ECI) has proposed that they be given the option of casting postal ballots for those elections.
  • The Union minister’s statement on making voting easier for NRIs comes in the wake of a proposal made by the Election Commission of India (ECI), which wrote to the Law Ministry, to grant them that option for those elections.
  • To make this option available, the Election Commission of India (ECI) suggested revising the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961.
  •  The postal ballots were to be distributed to Non-resident Indians (NRIs) electronically, following which they were to return the ballots via post after selecting their preferred candidate.

Who is an Overseas/Non-Resident Indian citizen?

  • The term “Overseas Voter” refers to a citizen of India who is absent from the country due to employment, education, or any other reason, and who has not acquired citizenship of any other country. Overseas Voters are eligible to register as voters in the state or territory where their Indian passport is registered.

Can vote on the condition-

  • If a person is an Indian citizen who has been gone from the nation due to job, education, or other reasons, and who has not gained citizenship of any other country, and who is otherwise entitled to be registered as a voter in the state where the passport was issued.
  • As long as the person was regarded to be ‘ordinarily resident’ as defined in Section 20A of the Representation of People Act, 1950, an NRI might join the electoral registers as an elector, according to Section 19 of that act. In contrast, before 2010, foreign nationals living in another country were not authorised to use their right to vote during elections in their own country. It was a straightforward addition to the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act, 2010, that established non-resident Indians’ voting rights, notwithstanding the fact that they required to be physically present in the constituency in order to vote.

What is the Representation of the People Act?

  • Part XV of the Indian Constitution, in particular Articles 324 to 329, specifies the election system for the nation. The Parliament is given the authority to pass legislation on all topics relating to elections to the Parliament and the State Legislature under the provisions of the Constitution.

The Representation of the People Act has several important provisions-

  • Establishes procedures for the delimitation of electoral districts.
  • Establishes procedures for allocating seats in the House of Representatives, as well as in the Legislative Assemblies and Legislative Councils of the states.
  • Procedures for the production of electoral rolls as well as for the filling of seats are outlined in this document.
  • Establishes the requirements for voters’ eligibility

The Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System: What You Need to Know-

  • The designed System is implemented in accordance with the currently in use Postal Ballot System.
  • The postal ballot will be given to the voters by electronic means, rather than via mail.
  • This option allows voters to cast their vote on an electronically received postal ballot from a location other than their initially designated voting constituency, allowing them to exercise their right to vote.
  •  This method would be a more convenient choice for electors to use in order to facilitate voting because the time limitation for the delivery of postal ballots has been solved via the use of this system.

Groups of persons who can vote via the Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System (ETPS) include:

  • Service Voters (individuals employed by the Central Forces under the Arms Act and government personnel stationed in foreign embassies), except those who want to vote via proxy.
  • The wives of the individuals previously mentioned.
  • Electors from other countries.

Complications that may arise –

  • Only a very small number of foreign residents actually registered to vote or showed up to cast their ballots.
  • The need that eligible voters appear in person at the polling station has dissuaded some eligible voters from exercising their right to vote.
  •  There are significant logistical problems, which necessitates “a realistic evaluation of demand.”

Is voting via postal ballot a feasible option for many people?

  • A growing number of citizens are migrating between countries for reasons related to their jobs, and the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (an intergovernmental organisation that works to support democratic processes and institutions) has recognised the postal ballot method as an effective means of allowing overseas voters to exercise their right, subject to certain conditions that are typically related to the time spent abroad or the work performed abroad.
  • A postal ballot mechanism that allows for proper authentication of the ballot at designated consular/embassy offices, as well as an efficient postal system, should make this process easier for NRIs.
  • However, eligibility rules for NRIs on the basis of time spent away from the country must be clearly defined.


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