Today, the Lok Sabha passed the Representation of People(Amendment Bill), which seeks to amend the provisions of Representation of People Act 1950 and Representation of People Act 1951.

The Amendment Bill seeks to enable Non-Resident Indians to cast  votes through their proxies in the constituency.

The 1950 Act deals with allocation of seats and delimitation of constituencies for elections,qualifications of voters, and preparation of electoral rolls. The 1951 Act provides for the conduct of elections and offences and disputes related to elections.

Section 20A of the 1950 Act recognized the right of an NRI to have her name entered in the electoral roll. However, the right to vote was exercisable only in person.

In order to allow proxy voting by NRIs, Section 60 of the 1951 Act is proposed to be amended by the Bill, by adding sub-section (ba) in Section 60. Section 60 enables the Election Commission to frame rules to allow special procedure for voting by special class of persons. It is in exercise of this provision that the EC has allowed indirect methods of casting vote like postal vote, vote by wife etc. The new sub-section seeks to enable the EC to frame rules to make special procedure for 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 other manner at any election in a constituency where poll is taken.

The Bill also seeks to include  gender-neutral references by substituting word “wife” with “spouse”.

The amendment will satisfy the long-standing demand of the NRI community for voting rights.