Karnataka High Court rejects petition seeking to allow NRIs to vote from abroad

The Karnataka High Court rejected a plea filed by Non-Resident Indian (NRI) voter Ravi M seeking to allow registered NRIs to vote from abroad during the upcoming Karnataka Assembly Elections. 

Election Commissioner Anup Chandra Pandey (right) interacting with NRIs about their voting rights and mechanisms. Photo courtesy: Twitter/@ECISVEEP

A vacation bench headed by Justice Krishna S Dixit and Justice Vijaykumar A Patil accepted the Election Commission of India's submission that instituting the mechanism of voting in foreign countries is a matter for the Legislature which must create the appropriate laws in the matter.

Ravi's petition highlighted his NRI status; he has been working as a registered nurse in Saudi Arabia  since 2008. The petition urged the Chief Electoral Officer of Karnataka to provide voting facilities for Indians living abroad through postal ballots or by opening polling booths in Indian Embassies.

According to the petition, around 60 lakh (six million) eligible NRI voters are living around the globe.

It added that some of the petitioner’s colleagues from Philippines and Italy have the option of voting from abroad through polling stations in their Embassies.

Also Read: All you need to know about registering as an NRI elector

According to the provisions of Section 20A of the Representation of People Act, 1950, a non-resident Indian (NRI) settled in a foreign land can become an elector in the electoral roll in India.

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has taken the voting rights of NRIs into consideration. Ahead of the 2019 general election, after a decision by the Indian Cabinet, the ECI had provided the option for Indians abroad to register as overseas electors online on electoral rolls.

In 2020, the ECI approached the Indian government asking the latter to permit NRIs to cast their votes through postal ballots.

Last year, at an interaction with the overseas Indian community in South Africa, Election Commissioner Anup Chandra Pandey spoke about electoral reforms and that NRIs could register as overseas voters on January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1, as opposed to the earlier qualifying date of January 1 only.