Pravasi Divas promise fulfilled: NRIs can now vote and contest

The government on Thursday notified rules that allow non-resident Indians (NRIs) who fulfill certain criteria to vote in elections in India. The Registration of Electors (Amendment) Rules, 2011 also allow NRIs to, by extension, stand for elections in India.

The notification fulfills one of the longest standing demands of the 11 million-plus NRI community, and is in line with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's announcement at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas last year that holders of Indian passport living abroad could get the right to vote by the time of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Currently, no person can be on the voters' list if he or she remains outside the country for more than six months at a stretch.

The rules, read with the Representation of the People Act, also give NRIs the right to contest elections. Under the provisions of the Act, a person eligible to vote in a constituency is also eligible to contest from that constituency. "Since the new rules are silent on this count, it means that NRIs would also be allowed to contest elections," said an Election Commission official.

"It was an assurance given to NRIs by the Prime Minister. By issuing the revised rules, we are only fulfilling that commitment," Union Law Minister M Veerappa Moily told The Indian Express.

Under the revised rules, NRIs holding Indian passports, who have not acquired or applied for citizenship of another country, and who satisfy the electoral officer of the area/locality cited as address in his passport, will be allowed to vote in elections in India.

The government has also issued a form that NRIs can fill and send to the electoral officer along with the necessary documents to be registered for voting.

As of now, the NRI voter will have to be present in the polling station on the date of polling to exercise his franchise. However, sources told The Indian Express that the government is not averse to allowing NRIs to votes electronically or by postal ballot.

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