Online voting for NRIs under consideration, says Justice Minister Kiren Rijiju

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The Indian government was studying the possibility of allowing online voting for non-resident Indians (NRIs) and was considering linking Aadhaar to voter rolls to check for fraudulent votes, Justice Minister Kiren Rijiju told the Lok Sabha on Friday.

Mr Rijiju also told the House that no questions should be raised about electronic voting machines (EVMs) and claimed that India’s electoral system was recognized as “one of the best” in the world.

During Question Time, the minister was responding to a supplementary question posed by Kerala Congressman K Muraleedharan regarding Pravasi or NRI Indians having the right to vote.

“Very positive suggestion”

“Sir, that is a very positive suggestion. And I told the electoral commission that we will make arrangements. Give us appropriate suggestions on how we are going to allow our people who stay away and work to have the opportunity to vote. We are also considering how the online voting system can be encouraged or implemented,” Rijiju said.

“But before making a decision, we have to make sure that the process is safe and transparent and that it is not dysfunctional,” he noted.

Talking about measures to prevent fraudulent voting and discrepancies in voter lists, he observed: “Linking Aadhaar to voter lists is one of the ways. From now on, linking Aadhaar to voter lists is voluntary. Our goal is to ensure “one nation, one voters list” to check for double names in voters lists and fraudulent voting and ensure a clean voting process”.

When Congressman Manish Tewari asked if the source code for EVMs remained with the manufacturing company or was passed to the election commission, the minister compared it to the judicial appointment process.

“Judges are appointed by the government, but once appointed they become independent. No one should question EVMs and there should be no inference either,” he said.

Mr. Tewari insisted on getting a specific answer to a specific question. President Om Birla intervened to say that India’s democracy and its electoral process were highly valued around the world.

Voting rights issue

The Chamber also witnessed a row between the minister and the chairman of Janata Dal (United), Rajiv Ranjan Singh.

Responding to a question, the Minister said that every voter had the right to vote in the elections and those who were in prison were also encouraged to vote; but there can be no compulsory voting.

Reacting to this, Mr Singh said the Minister should be a bit more “sensitive” in responding. “The Minister said that everyone, in prison or not, has the right to vote. In my understanding, this is beyond the facts. When a person is taken into custody, their basic rights are seized and voting is a basic right,” he explained.

Mr Rijiju responded, saying all citizens were equal for the government and, as Minister of Justice, he cannot say that undertrials do not have the right to vote. People are contesting and winning elections from prison, he added.

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