Nepalis abroad set to exercise voting rightIn a landmark decision, the Supreme Court has issued a mandamus order to the government to ensure the voting right of all Nepali citizens living abroad.
Tika R Pradhan
In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court has issued a mandamus order to the government to ensure the voting right of all Nepali citizens living abroad.
Implementation of the verdict will enable more than four million Nepalis living in different parts of the globe for employment, study and on diplomatic assignments to exercise their adult franchise.
A joint bench of Justices Sapana Malla Pradhan and Purushottam Bhandari ordered the government, Parliament and the Election Commission to make the necessary arrangements.
Though verdict on the writ petitioned by Advocate Prem Chandra Rai of the Law and Policy Forum for Social Justice (LAPSOJ) on April 27 last year was issued on March 21, the full text of the order was published on Sunday.
The decision, however, will not apply to Non-Resident Nepalis.
According to statistics, more than four million Nepalis are living and working in different parts of the globe. A vast majority of them are concentrated in the Gulf and Malaysia, sending home billions of rupees in remittance. However, the election regulations require citizens to cast their vote from their official place of residence, disenfranchising migrant workers.
“Make all necessary arrangements for ensuring the voting rights of all Nepalis living abroad,” reads the SC verdict. Nepalis who have not abandoned their citizenship, not received the citizenship of any other country, hold the voter identity card issued by the Election Commission, and have his/her name on the lists updated by a diplomatic mission should be allowed external voting, the SC ruled.
The apex court also directed the government to guarantee voting right either through representatives, postal service or electronic voting on the premises of diplomatic missions—whichever best ensures free, fair and secret voting in a cost-effective and hassle-free manner. The court directed the government to acknowledge the contribution of the citizens working abroad to Nepal’s economy by making it possible for them to vote.
In the writ petition, LAPSOJ said around 20 percent of the country’s total voters live abroad and that their constitutional right should not be denied.
Ahead of the first Constituent Assembly elections in 2008, the Election Commission had conducted a feasibility study on enrolling Nepali voters in the Gulf and elsewhere, where a significant number of Nepalis work, study and live.
While providing suggestions before promulgation of the new constitution, most of the people living abroad had sought voting rights.
The SC argued that going abroad in search of greener pastures was not someone’s wish but a compulsion in most cases. “Those leaving the country as the state failed to create jobs at home have also been deprived of their political right through denial of adult franchise.”
“Holding the polls by keeping a significant chunk of the population away would not only curtail civic rights but the poll results can also not represent the exact will of citizens,” reads the verdict.