Indian Parliament recently approved the bill to extend the facility of 'Proxy Voting' to overseas Indians. The bill seeks to give them the option of proxy voting, which till now was only available to service personnel. Currently, the overseas Indians were free to cast their votes in the constituencies where they were registered.
As per the Proxy voting, the member can delegate his or her voting power to a representative, to enable a vote in their absence. Presently, only service personnel are permitted to vote through proxy.
An expert committee of the Election Commission working on the issue had in 2015 forwarded the legal framework to the law ministry to amend the electoral laws to allow overseas Indians to use proxy voting.
Unofficial data with EC shows that only 10,000 to 12,000 overseas voters have exercised their franchise because they do not want to spend foreign currency to come to India and vote. The bill said the necessary provision of coming to India to cast ballot caused "hardship" to overseas electors.
Another provision in the amendment bill relates to spouses of service voters. As of now, an armyman's wife is entitled to be enrolled as a service voter, but a woman army officer's husband is not, according to the provisions in the electoral law. But the draft bill proposes to replace the term 'wife' with 'spouse', thus making the provision gender neutral. Members of the armed forces, central armed police forces, personnel of state police forces posted outside their state and employees of the centre posted outside India are eligible to be enrolled as service voters.
Post the approval, interestingly the Election Commission would have to devise a system or work out norms to ensure that a proxy delegated by an NRI is voting as per the desire!