In what is seen as a major disappointment to Non-Resident Indians who were keen to vote in the country of origin; now even though the NRIs can vote in the elections for the first time, the hitch is that they would have to be physically present in their place of origin to exercise their voting rights.
The Election Commission has already issued guidelines for enrolment of names of NRIs in the rolls after holding several rounds of discussions with the Ministries of External Affairs and Overseas Indian Affairs.
“Citizens of India living abroad, who have not acquired the citizenship of any other country, can make an application in Form 6A directly to the Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) of the constituency within which the place of residence of the applicant as given in the valid passport, falls,” Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi said.
Officials said that in the forthcoming Assembly polls across some states will be the first occasion when NRIs will be allowed to vote in elections in the country even if they stayed for more than six months outside India at a stretch.
According to earlier rules, an NRI’s name gets deleted from the voters’ list if he or she stays outside the country for over six months at a stretch.
Grant of voting rights has been a long standing demand of nearly 11 million NRIs and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had promised the community early last year that their demand will be met by the government.
Representation of People (Amendment) Act, 2010 has allowed an Indian citizen residing abroad to enrol in voter’s list and exercise his franchise even if he or she remained away from the place of residence in India for more than six months owing to employment, education or otherwise.
For enrolment of names in voters’ list, an NRI can go to an ERO in person or send by post his application to the ERO concerned. A postal application must be accompanied by copies of the passport and some other documents duly attested by an officer of the Indian Mission in the country concerned.
After enrolment, an overseas elector will be able to cast his vote in an election in the constituency, in person, at the polling station where he is registered as an overseas elector.
The officials said the decision of the ERO on application of an overseas voter will be communicated to the applicant by post on his address in the foreign country stated by him in the application and also by SMS on the mobile number given by him.
Although Parliament had in August last year passed the Representation of People (Amendment) Bill, 2010, to allow NRIs to vote in Indian elections, the process to finalise the norms took time due to initial differences between the government and the Election Commission.