J&K Voting Rights for Non-Locals: Here’s Govt’s Stand on Who will be allowed to vote in Jammu And Kashmir Elections?

J&K Voting Rights for Non-Locals: Amid chaos and confusion over voting rights for the non-local residents in Jammu and Kashmir; the Government has issued an important clarification. Here’s what govt says onwho will be allowed to vote in Jammu And Kashmir Elections.

J&K Voting Rights for Non-Locals
J&K Voting Rights for Non-Locals

J&K Voting Rights for Non-Locals: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Electoral Officer Hirdesh Kumar, recently announced that as part of the special summary revision of electoral rolls, the Union Territory is expected to add over 25 Lakh voters. One specific part of the announcement drew a lot of attention and ire from political circles, depending on which side of the fence the lie. Mr Kumar in his announcement had mentioned that the new voters being added to J&K Voting List would also include outsiders. This caused an immediate back last from political leaders from Jammu and Kashmir. PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti and NC chief Omar Abdullah held press conferences questioning the intent of the BJP-led central government in executing this decision.

Revision of Electoral Rolls After Abrogation of Article 370

As per the details shared by J&K Chief Electoral Officer, the exercise to revise the electoral is being carried out for the first time since the Abrogation of Article 370. The special summary revision of electoral rolls is being held to accommodate citizens who have attained the age of 18 years in the last three years since the special status to J&K was removed. J&K CEO Hirdesh Kumar also noted “massive changes in the voter list given that a large number of youngsters have attained the age of 18 over the past three years.”

In addition to this, Mr Kumar also mentioned that “anyone who is living ordinarily can avail the opportunity to get enlisted as a voter in J&K under the provisions of The Representation of the People Act.” Quoting statistics, Mr Kumar said that currently, J&K has only 78 lakh registered voters as compared to 98 lakh people who are above the age of 18 in the state. This means that around 25 lakh new voters, including non-locals, are likely to be registered as voters in Jammu and Kashmir.

No Requirement for Domicile Certificate to Become Voter?

The point of contention as far as J&K Voter List Revision is concerned has to do with the requirement of a Domicile Certificate for non-Kashmiri migrants. In his announcement, J&K CEO had said that a person residing in J&K doesn’t need aPermanent Resident Certificate or domicile certificate of Jammu and Kashmir to become a registered voter. Before the Abrogation of Article 370 in 2019, J&K had held a special constitutional status wherein the Permanent Residents Certificatewas treated as a mandatory document to register as a voter in the state. Without a domicile certificate, no outsider was allowed to register as a voter for the Assembly Elections in J&K.

Following the political backlash on the matter from politicians from J&K, the government has also issued a clarification on the matter. Through an advertisement issued in local newspapers, the UT Administration has said that the special drive for updating the electoral rolls has led to the "misrepresentation of facts by vested interests". However, the clarification remains silent on the key aspect of the announcement about the domicile status requirement for registering as a voter in J&K. The clarification doesn’t specify whether outsiders with domicile or without domicile certificates could register as voters.

Can anyone vote in J&K elections now?

As per the announcement made by the Chief Electoral Officer of J&K, apart from the local residents, only those people who are working or living — termed "ordinarily resident", will be eligible to the registered as voters. The officials have said that following the abrogation of Article 370, registration of voters will be managed as per the Representation of People Act 1950 and 1951. In line with this, "ordinarily residing person to register in electoral rolls of UT of J&K, provided he/she gets the name deleted from the electoral roll of his/her native constituency.” Any ‘outsider’ choosing to register as a voter in J&K will have to get their name deleted from the electoral roll in their native constituency. This is due to Sections 17 and 18 of the Representation of People Act, which mandates that a voter can be registered on electoral rolls from only one constituency.

It is important to note that before the abrogation of Article 370, non-local people who were residing in J&K were eligible to be registered as a voter from the state under the Jammu and Kashmir Representation of People Act. However, during the registration process, they were classified as Non-Permanent Resident (NPR) voters and were allowed to vote in the assembly elections. As per data available through Election Commission, there were about 32,000 NPR voters in J&K during the last Parliamentary Election.

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