Ahead of the upcoming Karnataka Assembly elections, non-resident Indians (NRIs) from Karnataka are seeking the right to vote through postal ballots or polling booths at their respective embassies. An estimated five lakh Kannadigas living overseas are currently unable to exercise their franchise due to their inability to travel to their hometowns to cast their votes.
Kannadigas living abroad in countries including Italy, England, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, among others, have requested permission from the Election Commission of India and their respective embassy or Consulate General of India’s (CGI) offices to vote through postal ballots or booths at their embassies.
The Sagarottara Kannadigaru association, which represents overseas Kannadigas around the world, has filed a public interest litigation in the Karnataka High Court, with a hearing scheduled for May 2. The association’s joint secretary, Ravi Mahadev, told the Times of India that he travelled to Mysuru to vote on May 10.
He added that the cost of travelling to India to vote is high and that neither the Election Commission of India nor the government encourages non-resident Indians to vote. While there is a provision to register as an overseas Kannadiga in Form-6A, it does not offer postal voting or polling booths in the countries where NRIs work.
Chandrashekhar Lingadalli, the president of the association, has started a campaign to submit memorandums to the embassies of countries where non-resident Kannadigas (NRKs) are based. Lingadalli, who has returned to his hometown of Bagalkot from Dubai, stated that NRKs are eligible to vote under three categories – working, dependents, and students.
He asked why it is not possible for around 6 million NRKs to vote, citing examples of countries like Algeria, the Philippines, Italy, and Romania that allow their citizens to vote by setting up polling booths at their embassies.
Two Indian-origin individuals, Hemegowda Rudrappa and Ravi Mahadeva, have launched a campaign to push for postal voting or the establishment of polling booths at embassies to allow Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) to vote. The campaign aims to address the difficulties faced by NRIs in travelling to India during the pandemic to exercise their democratic rights.
Hemegowda Rudrappa has submitted a memorandum to CGI in Italy, while Ravi Mahadeva has submitted a memorandum to the chief electoral officer, Karnataka, in Bengaluru. The campaigners believe that this practical solution would enable NRIs to vote without incurring significant costs.
The Karnataka High Court rejected a PIL on Tuesday, filed by an NRI who demanded voting rights for NRIs residing in foreign countries during the Karnataka Assembly Elections, scheduled for May 10.
Ravi M’s petition was dismissed by the vacation bench of Justice Krishna S Dixit and Justice Vijaykumar A Patil, who agreed with the Election Commission of India’s argument that voting is not a fundamental right but rather a creation of the law. Therefore, unless a law is enacted to allow voting, the right to vote cannot be claimed.
The court bench dismissed the argument made by the appellant’s lawyer that non-resident Indians (NRIs) have the right to vote, stating that it contradicts established electoral law. The bench concluded that the argument lacked merit and should be dismissed.
A petition was filed by Sagarottara Kannadigaru, a UK-based organisation, stating that it was established during the COVID-19 pandemic to address the concerns of NRI Kannadigas and other related institutions. The organisation is registered under the Community Interest Company (CIC) in the UK and represents Kannadigas living overseas.
An Indian citizen working as a registered nurse in Saudi Arabia since 2008, identified as Ravi, has petitioned the Chief Electoral Officer, Karnataka, to allow Indians residing abroad to vote in elections.
Ravi, who holds a valid Election Identity Card issued by the Election Commission of India, has requested the facility of voting from their respective residing countries, either through postal voting or by opening a polling booth at Indian embassies in those countries. He has highlighted that around 60 lakh eligible Indian voters are living abroad in various professions or studying at foreign universities.
A petition has been filed to allow Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) to vote in their residing countries during elections. The petitioner has stated that some colleagues from the Philippines and Italy are unable to vote in their respective elections despite residing abroad, as they are required to visit their embassies in their home country.
The petition seeks a directive from the Union of India and the Election Commission of India to allow NRIs to vote in their residing countries during elections.