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‘Measures underway on expatriate suffrage’; Center announce its position on NRI voting rights

The Central Government has clarified in the Supreme Court that it will soon take steps to provide facilities for non-residents and migrant workers to vote in the elections.

Attorney General R Venkataramani added that the confidentiality of the election will be maintained.

A bench headed by Chief Justice UU Lalit disposed the petitions regarding non-resident voting rights on the government’s assurance. The court while highlighting the case, said that the government should take a decision and that the Supreme Court’s interference in the power of the Parliament is limited.

Earlier, the Supreme Court had sent notices to the Center and the Election Commission, asking them to share their responses on the PIL seeking voting rights for non-resident Indians (NRIs).

Although the amendment for voting rights was introduced and passed in the Lok Sabha, it has not been introduced in the Rajya Sabha. As a result, the Chief Justice expressed that the court is not in a position to introduce and pass the amendment in the Parliament. The court also highlighted that non-resident Indians cannot demand the arrangement to vote be made for soldiers.

In 2014, Dr Shamseer Vayalil, a UAE-based petitioner approached the Supreme Court with a petition demanding that the government provide an opportunity for Indians working abroad to vote during elections, from their respective countries.

Kerala Pravasi Association (KPA) Chairman Rajendran Vellapalath and President National Council Aswani Nambarambath too filed a writ petition seeking voting rights for non-resident Indians (NRIs) in polls earlier this year.

During the hearing, the Chief Justice said that these petitions have been key in bringing the matter to the attention of the government. Advocate Harris Biran appeared on behalf of Dr Shamseer Vayalil, and advocates Kuriakose Varghese and Shyam Mohan on behalf of the Kerala Expatriate Association appeared in the Supreme Court.