‘Ministerial panel examining voting rights of armed forces, NRIs, migrant workers’

New Delhi, July 15 (IANS) The Centre on Friday informed the Supreme Court that a committee of ministers is examining the issue of extending voting rights to armed forces personnel, NRIs and migrant workers — including the mode of voting.

Government counsel R. Balasubramanian told a bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Prafulla C. Pant and A.M. Khanwilkar that an inter-ministerial committee headed by the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is examining the question.

The 11-member committee includes Nitin Gadkari, Sushma Swaraj, Piyush Goyal, Nirmala Sitharaman and Ravi Shankar Prasad.

The court adjourned the matter for four months as the government sought time for the committee to examine the issue and make its recommendations.

The bench is hearing two public suits by advocate Neela Gokhale (in 2013) and Rajya Sabha member Rajeev Chandrasekhar (in 2014) seeking voting rights for service personnel.

A bench of Justice R.M. Lodha (since retired) and Justice Kurian Joseph, on March 24, 2014, had ordered that all defence personnel posted at peace stations and who are not already registered as voters can get themselves enrolled for the Lok Sabha elections that year where the poll process had not yet commenced.

The court had said that the statutory bar that a service personnel should be the resident of peace areas for three years along with his family would not come in the way of getting registered for the Lok Sabha elections.

While passing the order, the court had noted that about 13,28,600 defence personnel have already registered as voters by filing the statutory Form 2 or 2A. It also had said that Centre would take “all necessary steps and provide all necessary assistance to the Election Commission in making the postal ballot for these 13,28,600 service personnel effective”.

Meanwhile lawmaker Rajeev Chandrasekhar, in a statement, said the three-judge bench had inquired from the government on Friday if it would consider any technological advances such as e-balloting for facilitating voting by the service personnel.

He said that the court asked the Centre to file a report in four weeks on the possible steps which can be taken to protect the rights of armed forces personnel to exercise their franchise during elections.



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