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MENAFN - Khaleej Times - 07/04/2014
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(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Dubai resident had filed a public interest litigation in the supreme court calling the existing provision discriminatory and violation of fundamental rights

As india goes to polls from today indian expatriates in the uae and elsewhere are looking forward to knowing their government’s stand on giving them the right to cast their votes from abroad.

Whether non-resident indians (nris) will be able to cast their vote from the countries of their residence will be decided based on the indian government’s reply to the supreme court today in a public interest litigation filed by dr shamsheer v.p. from the uae.

Dr shamsheer has contended that the existing provision under section 20a of representation of people’s act (amendment) 2010 — which mandates the nri voter to be physically present in the constituency to exercise his vote — is discriminatory and in violation of fundamental rights guaranteed under the constitution.

The petition has sought that registered nris living abroad be allowed to vote either in diplomatic missions or by making use of postal proxy or electronic voting for the purpose.

The supreme court which sent notices to the indian government and the election commission of india in the case is scheduled to hear their replies on the matter today. the election commission is reportedly all set to inform the apex court that currently it is not possible to allow expatriate indians to cast their votes abroad unless section 20a is amended.

However dr shamsheer a recipient of this year’s pravasi bharatiya samman award is hopeful that the indian government’s reply would be in favour of the millions of expatriates who are voiceless without easible voting rights.

Govt’s stand crucial

Speaking to khaleej times hours before he was to fly to new delhi for today’s hearing dr shamsheer said: “the election commission can only go by the book and say this. but what the central government says is crucial for the verdict. the interpretation of section 20a depends on how the central government will interpret it.”

He said he is hopeful that the verdict would be positive and indian expats would be at some stage if not in this election be able to vote from where they ae located. “indians abroad are very passionate about issues back home. but unfortunately they have no right to vote unless they travel home for that. i am glad that the court has taken serious note of the issue and the mood has been set. if the registered voters are allowed to vote from abroad it can have a major impact even on this election.”

If postal balloting has major logistical headaches he opined that online voting facility with biometric identification system should be introduced.

Social worker and campaigner for nri voting rights k.v. shamsudheen echoed the opinion and said nris could cast their vote online in the next elections if the new government takes necessary steps in that direction. “from the lukewarm response from nris to add their names to the voters list one thing is very clear … the majority of nris are not happy with the corrupt political system in india” he noted.

Of the nearly three million indians living across the world only 11844 abroad have registered online as voters as per a report by the election commission in february. out of this 11488 voters are from kerala.

Chartering a flight to vote

Although the election fever has gripped indian expatriates in the uae only a few hundred people are able to fly back home and vote. among them 180 indians from dubai would hog the limelight since they are flying today to kerala by chartered flight to cast their vote.

The kerala muslim cultural centre (kmcc) in dubai has chartered the flight for its members. “these 180 people would fly by a chartered air india flight monday afternoon. we have given them subsidised air tickets. they will be welcomed by prominent leaders in kerala” said p. k. anwar naha the president of dubai kmcc.

He said a chance to be part of the politics of the homeland would bridge the cultural and social barriers that leave a feeling of despair among nris.

“an online voting system for nris can be ensured smoothly through proper planning and implementation. an online registration procedure is already there to register names in the electoral list. it needs an extension. all that is needed is to develop a software for the implementation of the entire process” he said.



Khaleej Times

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