Recently, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has informed the Ministry of Law and Justice that it is “technically and administratively ready” to extend the Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System (ETPBS) to Non Resident Indian (NRI) voters for elections next year in Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.


  • The ECI started to look for possible options after receiving several requests from MPs, industrialists, ministers and also writ petitions by NRIs in the Supreme Court (SC) in 2013 and 2014.
  • After the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, a 12-member committee was set up to study mainly three options of:
  1. Voting by post.
  2. Voting at an Indian mission abroad.
  3. Online voting.
  • The committee ruled out online polling as it felt this could compromise “secrecy of voting” and also shot down the proposal to vote at Indian missions abroad as they do not have adequate resources.
  • In 2015, the panel finally recommended that NRIs should be given the “additional alternative options of e-postal ballot and proxy voting”, apart from voting in person.
  • Under proxy voting, a registered elector can delegate his voting power to a representative.

At present, postal ballots are allowed for certain categories of voters (Service Voters) living in India, which include:

  1. Members of the Armed Forces.
  2. Members of the Armed Police Force of a State, serving outside that State.
  3. Persons employed under Government of India on post outside India


  • The committee had consulted national political parties and the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on the options being considered for NRIs to cast their vote abroad.
  • Among parties, only the NCP has expressed complete support and according to the BSP, BJP and CPI, postal ballots were not a viable option due to time constraint. The Congress was not in favour of sending the postal ballot paper electronically.
  • The MEA expressed strong reservations over attesting the declaration as the process might be difficult in non-democratic countries.


  • According to India’s Foreign Exchange Management Act 1999 (FEMA), NRI is an Indian citizen or Foreign National of Indian Origin residing outside India for purposes of employment, carrying on business or vocation in circumstances as would indicate an intention to stay outside India for an indefinite period.
  • Visiting NRIs whose total income (which is defined as taxable income) in India is up to Rs. 15 lakh during the financial year will continue to remain NRIs if the stay does not exceed 181 days.
  • The Union Budget 2020 proposed to reduce this period to 120 days for all NRIs.


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