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Social Audit
2023 OCT   12

Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot (ETPB)

2023 JUN 20

Mains   > Polity   >   Election   >   Citizen Participation


  • While addressing a group of trainee Indian Foreign Service officers, Chief Election Commissioner said the time had come for the Election Commission to facilitate postal voting for Non-Resident Indians.


  • ETPB System has been developed by ECI with the help of Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), for the use of Service Voters.

Service voters:

  • One can enroll as a service voter if they are:
    • members of the armed forces and central armed police forces, Border Road Organisation, members of Indian embassies and diplomatic missions
    • member of an Armed Police of a State, and serving outside that state
    • Voters on election duty
    • Journalist
    • Voter above 80 years of age
    • Person with disabilities (PwD)
    • Voter who are under preventive detention
  • This system enables the entitled service voters to cast their vote using an electronically received postal ballot from anywhere outside their constituency.
  • The details of the concerned service voters are auto-filled in the ETPB. OTP is required to download encrypted ETPB file. Secrecy is maintained and no duplication of casted Vote is possible due to the QR Code.
  • Voters can register their mandate on the downloaded ETPB and send it to the returning officer of the constituency.


  • Voting rights for NRIs were introduced only in 2011, through an amendment to the Representation of the People Act 1950.
  • Currently, the ECI allows enrolled overseas citizens to vote in person at the polling station in the constituency where the person is registered as an overseas elector.
  • An NRI will have to produce the passport in original at the polling station for establishing identity.
  • As per the government, total number of overseas voters on January 1, 2023 stood at over 1.15 lakh.


  • Widen the Indian democratic base:
    • Several democratic countries allow for the option for their overseas citizens. India has one of the largest diaspora populations, with nearly 1.35 crore non-resident Indians spread across the globe. Making voting more accessible for them would uphold the value of Indian democracy.
  • Reduce the 'cost to vote':
    • For overseas citizens, the necessity to vote in person and the costs have acted as a disincentive for their wanting to exercise their mandate. ETPB can avoid this expense. 
  • More trustworthy:
    • ETPBS is a more trustworthy way of registering mandates rather than appointing proxies which is currently allowed for service personnel.


  • A 12-member committee was set up after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections to study mainly three options: voting by post, voting at an Indian mission abroad and online voting.
    • The committee ruled out online polling as it felt this could compromise “secrecy of voting”.
    • It ruled out the proposal to vote at Indian missions abroad as they do not have adequate resources.
    • It concluded that proxy voting was the most viable, though some political parties objected to the idea.
  • A Bill was passed in the 16th Lok Sabha (2014-19) to enable this but lapsed.
  • In 2020, the ECI approached the Government to permit NRIs to vote via postal ballots, similar to the system already used by service voters, i.e., the ETPBS.


Adoption of technology driven methodology like ETPB system to widen the political participation is a natural next step for Indian democracy. However, while extending such facilities, several challenges need to be addressed.   

  • Size of Indian democracy:
    • Several democratic countries allow for this option to their overseas citizens, but again, none has to deal with anything near the scale India has.
  • Question of internal migrants:
    • While extending the facility of voting to overseas Indians, the question of whether migrants within the country should also be allowed the same remains.
  • Formulation of rules:
    • If the postal ballot system is indeed instituted, rules must be clearly framed for voters’ eligibility on the basis of their time spent away from the country.
  • Capacity building:
    •  The capacity within the country (digital infrastructure) and outside it (embassies and missions) needs to be upgraded to effectively implement to the ETPB System.


Q. What is Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot system? Analyse the demand for extending ETPB to overseas Indians.