Democracy celebrates its existence via elections, and to strengthen that procedure The Representation of the People Act, 1950 (hereinafter referred as ‘the Act of 1950’, for convenience) and the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Act of 1951’, for convenience) was passed.

According to the statistics made available by the Ministry of External Affairs in December 2017, there are a total of 1,33,27,438 Non-Resident Indians across the globe. The difficulty faced by this Indian diaspora is addressed by the Representation of People (Amendment) Bill, 2017 being passed by the Lok Sabha. This Amendment proposes two major changes in the Act of 1950 as well as Act of 1951. The amendments are as follows-

  1. Section 20(6) of the Act of 1950 has been amended to make it gender neutral. The section before amendment stands as follows-

“The wife of any such person as is referred to in sub-section (3) or sub-section (4) shall if she be ordinarily residing with such person be deemed to be ordinarily resident on in the constituency specified by such person under sub-section (5).”

The term ‘the wife’ has been substituted by ‘the spouse’, and the term ‘if she’ has been substituted by ‘if such spouse’. Sub-section (3) and (4) of section 20 of the Act of 1950 deals with the persons having service qualifications and persons holding office in India declared by President of India in consultation with the Election Commission to be an office to which section 20 of the Act of 1950 applies.

  1. Section 60 of the Act of 1951 has been amended as follows-
  2. Firstly, in Section 60(b)(ii) the term ‘wife’ has been substituted by ‘spouse’, making it gender neutral;
  3. Secondly, a sub-section (ba) has been added after sub-section (b) of Section 60 providing as follows-

“any of the persons as is referred to in Section 20A of the 1950 Act to give his vote either in person or by proxy and not in any manner at any election in a constituency where poll is taken;”

Section 20A of the Act of 1950 is as follows-

“20A Special provisions for citizens of India residing outside India-

(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, every citizen of India-

          (a) whose name is not included in the electoral roll;

          (b) who has not acquired the citizenship of any other country; and

          (c) who is absenting from his place of ordinary residence in India owing to his employment, education or otherwise outside India (whether temporarily or not), shall be entitled to have his name registered in the electoral roll in the constituency in which his place of residence in India is mentioned in his passport is located.

(2) The time within which the name of the person referred to in sub-section (1) shall be registered in the electoral roll and the manner and procedure of registering of a person in the electoral roll under sub-section (1) shall be such as may be prescribed.

(3) Every person registered under this section shall, if otherwise eligible to exercise his franchise, be allowed to vote at an election in the constituency.”

Hence, section 20A prescribes the pre-requisites for allowing only certain group of NRIs to vote via proxy.

Application of this provision in the upcoming elections depends upon the fact that the Bill is passed in the Rajya Sabha as well as gets notified in the official gazette before the elections.    

 

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Bill: Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill, 2017