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Posted On : 13 Sep, 2017  Source : PTI  Place : New Delhi 
EC asks law min to make law on service voters gender-neutral
An armyman's wife is entitled to be enrolled as a service voter, but a woman army officer's husband is not, according to provisions in the electoral law.

But this may change in the coming months as the Election Commission has approached the law ministry to amend the Representation of the People Act to make it gender-neutral.

The poll panel has asked the law ministry to replace the term 'wife' with 'spouse' in the provision in the R P Act related to service voters.

Addressing a seminar here on enrolling service voters, Deputy Election Commissioner Sandeep Saxena said there have been demands to make the provision gender neutral.

Representatives from the Defence, the Home, and the External Affairs ministries, besides officers from the armed forces and central armed police forces were present.

Since the change entails amendments in law, the law ministry will move the union cabinet for approval. After getting the nod, the amendment bill will be taken to Parliament for approval.

Members of the armed forces, central armed police forces, personnel of state police forces posted outside their state and employees of the Centre posted outside India are eligible to be enrolled as service voters.

The wife of a service voter, if she is residing with him, is also entitled to be enrolled as a service voter in the constituency specified by that person.

But children and other relatives residing with a service voter cannot be enrolled as service voters, according to EC website.

EC flags poor response to enrolling service voters posted

The Election Commission today flagged the "very poor" response of the Ministry of External Affairs in enlisting its employees serving abroad as service voters even as it asked various organisations to walk an extra mile in enrolling their personnel in the electoral rolls.

Chief Election Commissioner A K Joti told the representative of the MEA at a seminar on enrolling service voters that "yours is an easier job, but the response is very poor, because hardly anybody is able to vote".

Earlier, addressing the gathering, the CEC said his interaction with embassy officials in Romania and the meetings his officials had with mission staff in Washington DC and New York had revealed that not many MEA employees posted abroad have been able to cast their vote in elections here.

Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra, representatives from the home and the external affairs ministries, besides officers from the armed forces and central armed police forces were present.

Secretary (East) in the MEA Preeti Saran said in her career as Indian Foreign Service office spanning 35 years, she has been able to vote only once.

She said a record number of officers in 183 Indian missions abroad have been appointed to enrol Indian employees as service voters.

According to Deputy EC Sandeep Saxena, out of 29 lakh people eligible to be enlisted as service voters, 14.5 lakh have been enrolled this year.

To wipe out the names of retired and deceased personnel from the list of service voters, the EC has initiated an exercise to register such voters afresh in the electoral rolls of all Lok Sabha and assembly constituencies.

Joti said at a time when the country is following the dream of digital India, enrolling 30 lakh people as service voters should not be a difficult task.

He said that with the use of latest information, communication and technology (ICT) tools, the Commission was able to remove one crore "errors" from electoral rolls, clean up 35 lakh "duplicate" entries and issue voter I-cards to 99 per cent of the total Indian electorate.

He said the inclusion of service voters in the electoral rolls becomes all the more important as the number of voters has risen from 83 crore in 2014 to 86.86 crore now.