Voting rights for NRIs to become a reality

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MUSCAT — The Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) in Oman will soon have a reason to rejoice as their efforts as well as that of activists from various sections of the diaspora for having voting rights in India is likely to be a reality in the near future after decades-long fight.

An official announcement is expected in the coming weeks and this is a ‘historic’ achievement for all the Indians across the continents, according to Dr Shamsheer VP, who had filed a petition with the Supreme Court of India to get this right.
“We are expecting a positive announcement from the Election Commission of India regarding online voting and that will be a great news for the Indians who are living away from their home country”, Dr Shamsheer, a recipient of the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman award, told the Observer in an exclusive interview.
The apex court of India had in April directed the Election Commission (EC) of India to file its response on the provision of online voting to registered NRI voters during the 16th general elections which was held recently.
In response, the EC expressed its reservations citing paucity of time. Shamsheer had moved the top court on Section 20A of Representation of People’s Act (Amendment) 2010, that mandates the NRI voters to be physically present in their constituency to exercise their voting rights. The SC has called for the next hearing on October 13 following which an official announcement and the mode of voting by the overseas Indians will likely be decided.
“We are looking forward to the hearing and it will be a remarkable day in the lives of the expatriate Indians. There are four options in front of the EC, say, voting at the embassy, using proxy, online, and voting through the embassy. The Commission may choose either one or two or a combination ”, Shamsheer, MD of the Lifeline Healthcare Group, said.
Non Resident Indians have been demanding for their voting rights for a long time. Several politicians, during their visit to this country, had promised to take up the matter. Some have taken it up seriously while for others, it was just a just a publicity matter. Several individuals, organisations and NGOs have struggled to get the expat Indians the right to vote in the general elections and have made several petitions at various levels. As a result of all these persistent efforts, there were moves to implement the same some months ago.
“There were high-level moves to implement voting rights for overseas Indians during the recent elections in May 2014 itself, but it was too close to the elections and hence it didn’t work out. And I’m pretty sure Indians in Oman along with the rest of the world will be able to cast their votes thanks to my team that has been working towards this goal”, Shamsheer said, saying that he had gone through the right route by approaching the apex court of India which has allowed him four or five hearings in one month and was keen to implement NRI’s to vote.
More than 25 million Indians are living in different countries across the world, which highlights the importance of the diaspora. In the Sultanate alone, the Indian population is estimated to be around 700,000 of which 95 percent of them are registered voters.