The Election Commission (EC) has rejected a plea for allowing inter-state migrants to vote through postal ballot or electronic means without having to travel physically to their native constituencies.
There are an estimated 400 million people in India who travel to other states to seek employment and cannot cast their votes from their native constituencies.
Submitting its response in the Supreme Court on Saturday, the EC has said that the provision in the Representation of the People Act were unequivocal in this regard that only those “ordinarily resident” of a constituency can cast their votes from that particular constituency, and hence migrants require to get themselves registered in their current place of residence if they wish to vote.
The scheme of the Act, the EC said, was clear that a person can be enrolled only at a place where he is ordinarily resident and therefore no question can arise of any person enrolling himself from his native constituency and vote after migrating to a different place. The EC’s affidavit came in response to an application filed by advocate Haris Beeran on behalf of petitioner Dr VP Shamsheer, a native of Kerala, now based in UAE.
The EC said private individuals cannot be put at par with the government employees, defence personnel or any other special categories of individuals, who are allowed to vote via postal ballot.
This privilege is accorded to them because of the compulsions of the public offices held by them in public interests, the EC said. It maintained that the classification is rational and reasonable, and the distinction is not discriminatory.
The EC said it has taken widespread measures to educate, promote and facilitate the citizens to exercise their right to vote and that it would address all the grievances that migrants may have in getting themselves enrolled where they have migrated.
For studying the problems of such migrant workers who wished to continue as voters from their native constituencies, the Election Commission said, it has constituted a committee of its senior officers. It requested the court to dismiss the prayer made in the application, which will come up for hearing before a bench led by Chief Justice of India H L Datum on Monday.