The Centre and the Election Commission were asked by the Supreme Court to share their response on a PIL seeking voting rights for non-resident Indians (NRIs) in polls, against a writ petition filed by Kerala Pravasi Association (KPA) Chairman Rajendran Vellapalath and President Aswani Nambarambath.
A bench comprising Chief Justice NV Ramana, Justices JK Maheshwari and Hima Kohli heard the PIL filed by the Kerala Pravasi Association, seeking voting rights for non-residents Indians. The Section 20A of the Representation of the People Act, 1950 provides special provisions for Indian citizens residing outside India to exercise their right to vote.
The Right to vote ensures participatory and responsible democratic government that empowers the citizens to influence governmental decision-making, policy and safeguards their other human rights. However, due to an absence of corresponding provisions, this has not been enforced.
As a result, a discrimination is created between foreign voters who are able/ incapable to be physically present in the respective constituency at the time of election, and those who are unable to physically attend the constituency, leaving them deprived of the opportunity to vote. This is a violation of the constituency for a citizen’s right, under Article 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India.
Although the Central Government and the Election Commission seem to have taken several steps to implement the provision, such as setting up Parliamentary Standing Committees and introducing bills before the Lok Sabha/Rajya Sabha, no concrete decision on this has been implemented till date.
This strengthens the relevance of the reports submitted by KPA to ensure the inclusion of overseas electors. Some interpretations of Section 20A of 1950, which create unreasonable restrictions on the exercise of his right by a non-resident elector on account of his physical inability to be present at the constituency are infact in contravention of Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution.
Today’s decision by the Supreme Court to issue a notice on the writ petition is a milestone step in the implementation the rights guaranteed to citizens.