Law minister silent on EC poser on whether PIOs can campaign in Indian polls

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NEW DELHI: Will people of Indian origin violate any law or visa rule if they campaign in elections in the country? The law ministry has maintained silence on this question posed by the Election Commission after the Punjab assembly polls.
It has, on the other hand, asked the poll panel whether it has any particular suggestion to make on the issue of PIOs campaigning in Indian polls.
During the Punjab elections, when several PIOs came to the state to campaign for the AAP, the chief electoral officer of the state had raised a query with the commission on whether this category of the people can do so.
The election law is silent on who can campaign in Indian elections.
“There was no complaint from any party in this regard. But the CEO raised a query as it was a new situation. As the Representation of the People Act or related electoral rules are silent on the issue, the commission then sought an answer from the Ministry of External Affairs.
“The MEA asked it to seek a response from the law ministry,” explained a government functionary aware of the correspondence between the EC and the government.
The commission then approached the law ministry. When there was no response, the poll panel reminded the ministry in January to clarify on the issue.
The ministry responded by asking whether the poll watchdog had any specific suggestions to make on PIOs campaigning in India. It, however, remained silent on whether campaigning in India was a violation of any law or visa rules, EC sources said.
“We are aware that the Representation of the People Act is silent on PIOs campaigning in India. We wanted to know whether any other law prohibits them from doing so. That query remains unanswered,” said a commission official.
“PIOs are not Indian citizens. They visit India on visa explaining the purpose of visit — official, personal or tourism.
“Since election campaign is not one of the purposes, we wanted to know whether coming on a private visit visa they can campaign in elections,” said a commission functionary requesting anonymity.

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