The Union government made a surprise move with an amendment in the Representation of People’s Act passed by the Lok Sabha on Thursday to allow proxy voting rights to NRIs, but the debate is far from over with the end of monsoon session.
Former chief election commissioners and House panels have opposed the move and said it would be open to court challenges, disadvantages the domestic migrant voter and could be an administrative nightmare.
There was some political consensus against the idea of proxy voting even in 2017 when the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs— headed by Shashi Tharoor—expressed strong reservations about the Cabinet approval to the plan in August last year.
“We had sought a briefing on the matter from the Law ministry and there was a unanimous view from members of all parties that this was not a desirable option at all. The members raised several objections to the proposal and they were not satisfactorily answered. Yet, the Bill has come unchanged and rushed through without wider consultations. One cannot but question why there was the hurry to rush it through”, Thraoor told ET.
Tharoor thinks the Bill opens itself to challenges in the court. “First, you can’t discriminate between migrants within country and NRIs on voting rights. The argument of logistical ease of proxy voting also doesn’t hold as that is not the key parameter for deciding on the issue. Ensuring secrecy of the ballot, trust and dangers of purchase of votes are bigger concerns,” Quraishi said.
Ex-CEC N Gopalaswami said the idea may sound ‘politically attractive’, it would be an administrative nightmare.
Another ex-CEC pointed out that e-postal ballot has been rather successful and that would be a better idea.
Source: Economic Times